Mountain Family column: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month |

Mountain Family column: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

One of every four deaths in the United States is due to cancer. For women, breast cancer is the second most common cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the most recent data on breast cancer cases show that 3,741 women living in Colorado were diagnosed in 2015 with a new case of breast cancer. Approximately 240,000 new cases are reported each year. Overall, Colorado is 32nd among our 50 states when it comes to rates of new cancer cases among women.

In the past few years, there’s been a growing awareness of how drinking alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. According to, women who drink more than three alcoholic beverages per week have a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer when compared to women who don’t drink at all. It is estimated that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10 percent for each additional alcoholic beverage women regularly drink each day.

Here are some important steps for reducing the risk of breast cancer:

• Keep a healthy weight.

• Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).

• Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.

• Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens).

• Try to reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests like mammograms, X-rays, CT scans and PET scans.

• If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

• Breastfeed your babies, if possible.

According to CDC, these three steps make a big difference in early detection, for men and women:

• Know how your breasts normally look and feel.

• Talk to your doctor right away if you notice changes in your breast(s).

• Talk to your doctor if you have a higher risk, including family history of cancer.

Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 and older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. If you experience any of the following warning signs for breast cancer, call your doctor right away. (You can call if you see other worrying symptoms, too.)

• New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

• Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.

• Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

• Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

• Pain in the breast.

Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Most women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, or think you may have a higher risk of breast cancer, ask your doctor when to have a screening mammogram.

If you have questions about breast cancer or symptoms, please check with your provider and ask for a referral for mammography screening today. Call Mountain Family Health Centers at 970-945-2840 to make an appointment or find more information at

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