In 1940, the lifetime risk of a woman developing breast cancer was 5 percent, or one in 20. In 1997, the risk was estimated at 12 percent, or one in eight. Today the risk is even higher.
Breast cancer can occur at any age, but medical research indicates it usually happens after age 40.
If you are a woman over 40 years old, you should know about breast cancer and how to identify the early symptoms, while they still are just “symptoms.” The good news is that when breast cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stage, the chances for a successful treatment are in your favor.
In a word: mammogram.
A mammogram can find cancer when it is very small, often years before a woman might discover it by routine self-examination or even what a trained doctor may find with a physical examination.
Here are the ABCs of breast health:
Annual mammogram. Start at age 40 and continue so long as you are in good health.
Body. Be familiar with your own body. Do self-examination regularly and report any changes or abnormalities to your doctor without delay.
Clinical breast exam: If you are 40 or older get a clinical breast exam every year by your doctor or nurse. Younger women should be encouraged to have a clinical breast examination every three years between the ages of 20 and 40.
IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.