October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among United States women, no matter your race or ethnicity. The three main risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman, getting older, and certain genetic changes.
Most women (about 8 out of 10) who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. However, women who have close blood relatives like a mother or sister who have had breast cancer are at a higher risk themselves. About 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, meaning they result directly from gene changes passed on from a parent. The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited change in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. If symptoms do appear, they may include the following:
- a lump, hard knot, or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- new pain in one spot that does not go away
- nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
- dimpling or puckering of the breast skin
- any change in the size or shape of the breast
- swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast skin
- itchy, scaly sore, or rash on the nipple.
Routine screenings are an important step to help find breast cancer early. With early detection breast cancer is usually easier to treat and has better outcomes. A mammogram is the best test to detect breast cancer early.
Free mammograms are available through the Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) for women aged 40 to 64 who do not have health insurance. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. If you do not have health insurance and are aged 40 to 64 years old call 435-3653 or visit the CSP website at ongov.net/health/cancerscreening.html to register for your free mammogram.
Whether you have health insurance or not, the bottom line is that having a mammogram may save your life. Remember, if you are a woman aged 40 to 64 and do NOT have health insurance, call 435-3653 to see if you qualify for a free mammogram. Take care of yourself this October and schedule your mammogram today!