October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is a little less than 1 in 8 (12%).  The American Cancer Society estimates  that   207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women  this year and about 54,010 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer). Approximately 39,840 women will die from breast cancer this year. In 2009 there were 1200 new cases of breast cancer in Nebraska. At this time there are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

What causes breast cancer is still unknown. Is it genetic? Is it lifestyle? Is it a combination of both? While we don’t know the exact cause there are certain risk factors that you can control to decrease your risk. By eating healthy, maintaining an average weight, minimizing alcohol intake, quitting smoking, exercising regularly and minimizing stress you can minimize your risk for breast cancer. Other risk factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and family history that you can’t control.

Early detection is the key to saving lives. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year. Women should also begin yearly mammograms at the age of 40 and earlier if there is a significant family history of breast cancer.  If there is  a significant family history of breast cancer  women  should consider genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutation. Follow this link from the American Cancer Society to set up your yearly reminder to have your mammogram.

If you want to increase awareness for breast cancer and get involved with your local, state and national events occurring during the month of October follow these links for more information: