Looking out for breast cancer

Breast cancer can be deadly if you don’t catch it early, and this September, Heartland is hoping to help you make sure the disease doesn’t catch you off guard.

The first sign of breast cancer is often a small lump or unusual mammogram. A change is your breast’s overall size and shape can be an indicator, too. Nipple discharge, or redness around the nipple, are other signs.

Like most types of cancer, breast cancer is when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably. If left unchecked, breast cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes, or through your bloodstream to other organs.

Who can get breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among women. It’s also the second deadliest cancer, after lung cancer. About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in the life. About two thirds of breast cancer cases are in women older than 55.

Men can get breast cancer too, but they account for less than 1% of all cases.

Is breast cancer treatable?

Breast cancer is very treatable if caught early. If the cancer hasn’t spread outside the breast, it can usually be handled before the cancer spreads.

Once the cancer spreads, treatment becomes more extensive. With recent improved treatments, about 80% of women can survive at least 10 years after diagnosis.

What can I do to lower my risk?

Women who are overweight after the beginning of menopause are at increased risk for breast cancer. In fact, inactivity and weight in general can increase your chances of developing breast cancer.

Breast cancer also has more a chance to develop for women using hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years during menopause. Certain birth control methods, like pills, shots, patches, IUD, vaginal rings and implants can increase your risk, too.

Regular alcohol consumption, especially more than one drink per day, can put you at risk as well.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

Mammograms, ultrasounds, an MRI and biopsies are all ways doctors determine is you have breast cancer.

Like with all cancers, it’s best to catch it early and contain it. Whether you’re a man or woman, if you think you have an unusual growth in your breast, or if you have a family history of breast cancer, see your family doctor as soon as you can.