October may be known for the Halloween treats, haunted houses and spooky costumes — but it’s also known for something so much bigger: Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And, it's for good reason. Looking at just a few statistics about breast cancer External Site can be shocking.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. In 2018, more than 40,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die from breast cancer. African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other ethnic group. About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
Risk factors for breast cancer
If you have one or more breast cancer risk factors External Site, you might be more likely to develop it. But, just because you have some risk factors, doesn't necessarily mean you will develop breast cancer.
A few risk factors of breast cancer include: being female, getting older, and having a history of breast conditions.
Having a personal or family history of breast cancer is also a risk factor. However, 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history.
Breast cancer screenings
The American Cancer Society External Site recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer — most women — begin yearly mammograms at age 45. It may be a good idea to talk about your risk factors with your personal doctor before your 45th birthday, just in case you need to get screened early.
Preventive mammograms are typically covered at 100 percent by your Wellmark health insurance plan. Just be sure to use an in-network provider and log in to myWellmark® Opens new window to check your benefits before making the appointment.
At age 55, you may be able to limit preventive mammograms to every other year. They should continue for as long as you're in good health.
If you have questions about mammogram screenings, talk to your personal doctor.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key to early detection. However, it's important for women to be aware of the look and feel of their breasts, so they can talk to their doctor about any changes.
Some other signs and symptoms of breast cancer you should know, are:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
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