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Breast cancer awareness

You probably don’t need a reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness

Month; after all, pink ribbons are as ubiquitous as pumpkin spice lattes this

month. But it never hurts to refresh your understanding of the disease and

share with your loved ones.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the U.S.

(aside from skin cancer). An estimated 266,120 women (and 2,550 men) are

expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2018, and nearly

41,000 women (480 men) will die of the disease. In North Dakota alone, an

estimated 570 women will be diagnosed and 80 will die of the disease. But

death rates are declining, and improvements in early detection and treatment

are key.

If you’re a woman in your 20s or 30s, talk to your health care professional

about Clinical Breast Exams (CBEs); if you have a family history of cancer,

be sure to discuss other screening options. Screening saves lives by finding

breast cancer earlier, when treatment may be more successful. Beginning at

age 40, the Prevent Cancer Foundation® encourages women to get a CBE and a

mammogram annually. Your health care professional may recommend that you

begin screening earlier, get screened more frequently or get magnetic

resonance imaging (MRI) with your mammogram if you have a family history of

the disease.

Although more expensive and not always covered by insurance, 3D mammograms

have been found to be slightly better at detecting cancer and may reduce

false positives (a result that suggests cancer is present when it really is

not). Talk to your health care professional to see if your screening facility

offers this technology and if this method is recommended for you.

Pay attention to your body. Talk with a health care professional if you

experience a lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast; a lump under your

arm; a change in the size or shape of a breast; nipple pain, tenderness or

discharge, including bleeding; itchiness, scales, soreness or rash on a

nipple; an inward or inverted nipple; a change in skin color and texture

(dimpling, puckering or redness); or a breast that feels warm or swollen.

You can take steps to reduce your risk of breast cancer. If you drink

alcohol, limit it to no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two

drinks a day if you’re a man, exercise at least 30 minutes at least five

days a week, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke. Breastfeeding may

also reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Take action now and make these

healthy lifestyle choices to stop cancer before it starts.  Learn more at

Mikey Hoeven is the spouse of Senator John Hoeven and a member of the Prevent

Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.

Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention.