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What Women (and Men) in Charles County Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Few forms of cancer are as openly talked about as breast cancer. It’s a good thing, too. Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and among the top causes of cancer deaths for women in the United States.

In recent years, great strides have been made in the fight against breast cancer and in efforts to raise awareness about its causes, treatments options, and the benefits of early detection We’re proud to take part in the push for awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October, and we hope you’ll take a moment to learn some of the most important facts about breast cancer that women and men need to know.

Women Have a 13 Percent Chance of Developing Breast Cancer

Incidence rates for breast cancer have increased slightly over recent years, and it’s estimated that women in our country have a 1 in 8 (13 percent) chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes. In fact, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that over 275,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 48,500 cases of non-invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women over the course of 2020. 

Women represent over half of the population in Charles County, Maryland, and 13 percent of the county’s population is over the age of 65. Although this population makeup isn’t entirely unique in the context of the United States as a whole, it does put a large percentage of our community at risk for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Among Men is Rare but Not Impossible

Although much of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is focused on raising awareness of breast cancer among women — and rightfully so, given how prevalent it is — it’s important for men to understand they can also get breast cancer. 

For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833. And the ACS estimates that, in 2020, there will have been 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed among American men and about 520 men will die from breast cancer.

Breast cancer in men, just like it is for women, is significantly more treatable when it’s found early enough. Because it’s so rare, however, the ACS notes there’s unlikely to be any real benefit to screening men in the general population with mammograms or other tests women often undergo. That said, its rarity can also cause some men to ignore warning signs and symptoms or believe them to be caused by something other than breast cancer. Possible signs and symptoms include:

  • A lump or swelling which may or may not be painless
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction (turned inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

Of course, these symptoms don’t always point to breast cancer, but it’s important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional sooner rather than later if these symptoms are present.

Beware of Disproven Claims About Risk Factors

As with any health issue, there are countless internet articles or social media posts out there that make debunked or controversial claims about what can cause breast cancer. These claims can be confusing and harmful by providing misinformation.

Some of the lifestyle-related risk factors and unchangeable risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Age (risk of breast cancer goes up as you age)
  • Family history and hereditary traits
  • Height (taller women have a higher risk of breast cancer)
  • Having dense breast tissue
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Not having children or not breastfeeding your children
  • Smoking
  • Birth control/hormone therapy or exposure
  • Soy intake

Even for all we already know about breast cancer and its risk factors, however, there are still several factors that have neither been conclusively proven nor disproven as increasing a woman’s risk of breast cancer. With that in mind, it’s even more important to stay in touch with your doctor and partake in regular screenings.

Early Detection is the Best Weapon Against Breast Cancer

Research into new, more effective treatments for breast cancer continues, and there’s no doubt that doctors have more options than ever at their disposal when it comes to treating patients. But even as new treatments become available, screenings and early detection will remain the most critical weapon in the fight against breast cancer.

Breast cancer can often be found in early stages — through mammograms, clinical exams, and self-exams — and prognoses are substantially more positive it’s when found before a tumor grows or spreads to other parts of the body.

Mammography screening and 3D mammography services are available in Southern Maryland in places like the Bill and Julie Dotson Imaging Center. Additionally, the recently opened UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Breast Health practice in La Plata offers routine evaluations, comprehensive screenings, and advanced treatment options as well.

For men, scheduling regular wellness checks with your primary care physician and being open about anything you’ve noticed about your health are the best ways to address your breast cancer risk.

To learn more about breast cancer, its causes, symptoms, warning signs, risk factors, treatment options, and more, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

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