MEDFORD, Ore. — The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NewsWatch 12 is "going pink" all month to do our part. We will be sharing local and deeply personal stories of hope and survival throughout October — but it's important to start with the facts.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. — trailing only heart disease, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Quick Facts from the CDC About Breast Cancer
- Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the U.S. is the most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.
- The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
- The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
- About 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.
- When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized.
- The most common kinds of breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma — named for the different kinds of tissue in which they originate.
- If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a high risk of getting breast cancer. You may also have a high risk for ovarian cancer.
- A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer.
Among women, breast cancer is by far the most common form of cancer, no matter your race or ethnicity (excluding extremely common forms of skin cancer). Breast cancer is also the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women, and the second most common cause of cancer death among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
In the U.S. throughout 2015, there were 242,476 new cases of female breast cancer reported — 41,523 women died from it.
The good news for Oregonians is that our state has some of the lowest rates of breast cancer in the country. The CDC estimates that there are 115.6 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women in Oregon, based on 2015 data. Rates in neighboring California and Washington are higher, while Nevada boasts an even lower rate (in the country, only Wyoming has a lower rate than Nevada).
There are a number of risk factors for breast cancer that can be impossible to avoid — aging, genetic mutations, a family history of breast cancer, and some biological factors such as early menstruation or starting menopause after age 55.
So what can you do to improve your chances of avoiding breast cancer? Physical activity and managing weight is key, both before and after menopause. Avoiding certain forms of hormone replacement therapy and birth control can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Having your first pregnancy before the age of 30 and breastfeeding have been shown to reduce the risks of cancer. The CDC also found that avoiding alcohol can reduce risk.
However, with breast cancer forming such a common risk factor for women, the best defense is always to participate in breast cancer screening. Experts recommend that women between the ages of 50 and 74 years old and are at an "average risk" for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years.
Women between the ages of 40 and 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when they should start getting mammograms and how often.
Self-awareness is also key — by being familiar with how their breasts look and feel, women may be able to notice symptoms such as lumps, pain or changes in size that may be an early warning sign.
Finally, while breast cancer is significantly more rare in men, it can affect them too. Since breast cancer screening is not a common practice for men, self-awareness and self-exams are just as important for males to practice.
Check in with NewsWatch 12 throughout the month of October, where we'll be bringing you local stories of survival, resources, and how you can help those who have been affected by breast cancer.
Different medical organizations have slightly altered guidelines for when and how often women should start seeking breast cancer screening. See the chart below for specific details.