Each year, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month focuses our attention on the burden of breast cancer in our society and reminds us that there are things women can do to help detect this disease earlier, when it may be most treatable, and, possibly, to reduce the risk that it will occur in the first place. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer – other than skin cancer – among women in the United States and the second-leading cause of cancer death. In 2010, it is estimated that 207,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 40,000 will die from the disease, according to an HHS press release.
Research has shown that regular screening mammography can help lower the number of deaths from breast cancer for many women. Due to the introduction of widespread screening as well as advances in treatment, the breast cancer death rate in the United States declined by approximately 26% between 1975 and 2007.
Beginning at age 40, all women should consider having mammograms every 1 to 2 years. A family history of the disease, radiation therapy to the chest for a previous cancer, treatment with menopausal hormone therapy, and obesity may all increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Each woman should talk with her health care provider to determine her personal risk for breast cancer and what screening schedule is best for her. Women should also try to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Taking these measures may help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.