The fear of getting breast cancer has become part of many woman’s life and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of detecting breast cancer early.

In addition to increasing the familiarity and understanding of this terrible disease, the annual month also raises funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. In addition, the campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

The second most common type of cancer found in women, breast cancer will at some point attack 1 in 8 women born today in the United States.

Thanks to effective screening techniques, increased awareness and better treatments, a women’s probability of dying due to breast cancer has plummeted 38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014. That translates into 297,300 fewer deaths due to breast cancer during that time span.

That’s the good news.

The less positive reality is much more needs to be done. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2017, approximately 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and that 40,610 women would die that year because of it. The chances that a woman will die from breast cancer are estimated at about 1 in 37, or approximately 2.7 percent.

There are particular factors that may increase the possibility of women contracting breast cancer. Limited research states that long-term heavy smoking and starting to smoke prior to a first pregnancy, slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. The risk of obtaining postmenopausal breast cancer is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women (BMI 27+) and about two times higher in obese (BMI 30+) women.

Numerous studies show that alcohol consumption increases the eventual risk of breast cancer in women by about 7-10 percent on average for each drink of alcohol consumed per day. Women who have 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers. On the contrary, mounting evidence states that regular physical activity provides a 10-25 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive.

In an effort to help spread awareness about breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, encourage women ages 40-49 to speak with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms, which are the most effective screening devices used today to detect breast cancer in most women. Encourage communities, organizations and families to do all they can to spread the word about this terrible disease and how to prevent and detect it early.  

If you have questions about breast cancer, or if you’re looking for a primary care physician for yourself, please call 317-880-7666 or visit www.eskenazihealth.edu/doctors.  

Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD
Eskenazi Health Center Primary Care – Center of Excellence in Women’s Health

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