October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer poses a threat to nearly every woman in every corner of the United States. Many of us can name friends and family affected by the disease. Fortunately, with early screenings and medical research, breast cancer is no longer a sudden discovery with little hope of recovery. Both men and women should recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you find yourself with any of the symptoms listed below, contact your physician right away.

Common symptoms (in both men and women):

-Lumps, hard knots or thickening

-Dimpling or puckering of the skin

-Changes to your nipple, such as redness, scaling or a nipple that turns inward

-Nipple discharge that starts suddenly

Common symptoms (in women only):

-Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening

-Change in the size or shape of the breast

-Itchy, scaly sore or a rash on the nipple

-Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast

-New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

Aside from lifestyle changes, the MOST IMPORTANT ACTION a woman can take is to follow early detection guidelines. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, breast cancer can be more effectively treated when caught in the earlier stages. Screenings have even been shown to reduce mortality rates.

Below is a list of screenings you should take advantage of:

  1. Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) is when the doctor looks at and feels the breasts and under the arms for anything unusual, including lumps.
  2. Mammograms are X-ray images of the breast used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease.
  • Film Screen Mammograms use X-rays to produce an image of the breast. The image is created directly on a film; it is less sensitive for women who have dense breasts.
  • Digital Mammograms expose women to a lesser dosage of radiation and are seen to be more accurate in women under the age of 50, women with radiographically dense breasts, and premenopausal women.
  1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. It is suggested for women with a greater than 20% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and women who have been treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  2. Ultrasounds use sound waves to produce images. The image may show whether a lump is solid, filled with fluid, or a mixture of both.

Breast cancer prevention begins with healthy habits —you can beat the odds by being physically active, limiting alcohol intake and eating food that nourishes your body. Just like life in general, with breast cancer, there are some things in your control and some things that are out of your hands entirely. Here’s a list of potential risk factors to be on the lookout for:

-Being female

-Increased risk after age 40

-Personal medical history

-Family medical history

-Caucasian descent

-Dense breast tissue

-History of taking DES medication

-Poor lifestyle habits

Whether it’s your diagnosis or that of a friend or family member, cancer is a difficult experience for everyone. If you have any questions or need to schedule your annual mammogram, please call 812-663-1266. At Decatur County Memorial Hospital, we commit ourselves every day to providing compassionate care for women in our community.