Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Take Charge of Your Health

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 among U.S. women, there will be 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 40,290 breast cancer deaths. As we enter October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are focusing on breast cancer and how you can take charge of your health!

Self Awareness
While breast cancer will be diagnosed and treated by a doctor, it is important that women are active in their own health and aware of their risks and changes.

Susan G. Komen recommends that you:
1. Know your risk: Talk to your family members about family health history and talk to your doctor about your personal risk
2. Get screened: Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk, and have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40
3. Know what is normal for you: See your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts (more on that below)
4. Make healthy lifestyle choices: Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, limit alcohol intake, limit menopausal hormone use and breastfeed if you can

Click here to download your own self-awareness card from Susan G. Komen.

Self Exam
According to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center: Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.

Breast self-exams should be performed once a month, at the same time every month.

Click here to download the PDF above, from the National Women's Health Resource Center.

Warning Signs
From Susan G. Komen, the following changes should be reported to your doctor.

If you do find any of these changes though, don't panic! 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous and breast pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer. The only way to know for sure is to see your doctor.

Screening Program
Mammograms can detect cancer cells before any of these changes can be felt, so regular screenings are key to early detection.

If you have limited financial resources or limited insurance coverage, you can still get screened! The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provides cancer screening to eligible women through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Click here to find out more about the program, and see if you may be elegible.

Local Resources
There are many local programs and nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping those with breast cancer. Here are just a few:

Susan G. Komen Maryland
Every year, Komen Maryland hosts the Race for the Cure. Of the money raised, up to 75% stays in Maryland to fund local programs for women and families; the remaining 25% of funding supports national research to find the cures for breast cancer.

This year's Race for the Cure is October 25 in Hunt Valley. Find out more here.

Movable Feast
Moveable Feast provides nutritious meals and other services at no cost to people who are sick and need support. Services include home delivered meals, nutritional counseling and medical transportation.

The Red Devils
The Red Devils is an organization based in Baltimore whose mission is to fund services that improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients and their families. Services include treatment transportation; family support, like house cleaning and meals; and medical services.