You will see a lot of pink this month. Maybe a colleague will be sporting a pink ribbon, or maybe a friend will wear pink clothing. But why do people wear pink during the month of October? It’s because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among American women. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Breast cancer is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Why do we wear pink?
The color pink is identifiable with breast cancer, and the pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, or just the color pink are often worn to show support for women who have breast cancer.
The first time that pink ribbons were used to show support and awareness for breast cancer was in 1991 when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in a race for breast cancer survivors.
But National breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t just a time to wear pink. It’s a time to increase awareness of the disease, support those currently battling breast cancer, and honor those who fell victim to breast cancer.
Early detection is crucial
Early detection remains one of the most effective tools against breast cancer, and regular screenings are key. Detecting and treating cancer in its early stages greatly increases the rate of breast cancer survival. Breast cancer screenings are necessary to detect cancer.
Risk assessment is important to determine your early detection plan.
Breast cancer screenings
- Self-examinations should be performed each month. A quick check during or after a shower to look for visible signs, and feel for lumps is good practice.
- A clinical breast exam should be performed by a healthcare professional each year.
- Mammograms are especially effective in detecting breast cancer. Screening mammograms can detect cancers well before there are any visible symptoms. The Breast Center strongly encourages annual screening mammogram for women 40 or older.
Know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Here’s what to look for when performing a self breast exam each month.
- Changes in the breast or nipple
- Lumps or thickening of the skin
- Change in texture or enlargement of pores in the skin
- Unexplained changes in size or shape of the breast
- Sudden or gradual onset of asymmetry
- Redness, irritation, or scaling of the skin
- Any nipple discharge when a woman is not breastfeeding
Although these are common breast cancer symptoms, having one or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. If you experience one or any combination of these symptoms, however, you should inform your physician.
It’s also possible to have breast cancer, but none of the common symptoms. That’s why you can’t rely on self-examinations to screen for breast cancer.
Limit your risk of breast cancer
Cancer cannot be prevented, but there are ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Of course, some factors are beyond your control. For example being female, having a family history of breast cancer, and being older all increase your risk of breast cancer. However, there are many things that you can do to help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular physical activity
- Eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Don’t smoke
- Reduce the amount of alcohol that you drink
- Get regular breast cancer screenings
- Talk to your doctor
Here are some other risk factors for breast cancer.