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Breast Cancer Awareness Can Save Lives

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual recognition that promotes well-being through early detection and education about different diagnoses, treatments, and support options. The month is filled with free mammograms, fundraising races, and other events.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has invested nearly $2 billion towards finding a cure, is the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to breast cancer research, education, and awareness. The foundation sponsors races across the United States and in other countries around the world, including Belgium, Italy, and Uzbekistan. The website also aims to assist those who want to learn more information about breast cancer, explore resources, donate to the cause, or register for a race.

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website has information about the month’s collaborating organizations and provides visitors with locations of low-cost mammogram and screening centers.

In the United States, one out of every nine women will develop breast cancer. Early detection is key, and at-home exams are smart and easy ways to check for the cancer. The most accurate time to check is just after the completion of your menstrual cycle. Doctors recommend women begin the self-exams around age 20 and complete them once a month.

To perform a self-exam, lie down and place one arm under your head. With your other hand, gently press on the breast closest to the arm under your head. Check for any lumps by moving your hand in small circles and covering the entire breast, including the area the area under your armpit.

If you find any lumps or other abnormalities, don't panic. To be find out what exactly it is, just make an appointment with your doctor or other health professional. Most lumps aren’t dangerous or malignant. Detected early enough, cancer often can be treated successfully.

In addition to monthly self-exams, you should schedule regular breast exams with your physician to check for anything that you missed. Doctors say women over 40 ought to have physicians perform annual exams and mammograms. The older you get, the more important these exams become in terms of successfully treating any cancer found.

If your doctor suspects that you might have breast cancer, you will be scheduled for a breast biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure where some of your breast tissue is removed and analyzed to look for cancerous cells.

Some biopsies require minor surgery, while others can be performed right in your doctor’s office with a needle. If your doctor feels a lump in your breast and subsequently schedules you for a biopsy, don’t worry. Three-fourths of all breast biopsies are not cancerous.

There are several different treatment options that you may choose if you are diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatments available can depend on a variety of factors, including the stage of the cancer and the resources available in your area. However, the treatment you choose is ultimately up to you. The common treatment options for breast cancer are

  • Surgery, including reconstructive surgery

  • Chemotherapy

  • Hormone therapy

  • Radiation therapy

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