Stopping breast cancer in its tracks

Published 8:41 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

It’s that time of year again.

October marks the season for pumpkin spice everything, light sweaters and leaves changing colors, but more importantly, it marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The most recent data shows breast cancer will affect one in eight women in her lifetime. It is also the most common form of cancer in women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 230,815 women and 2,109 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States in 2013 (the most recent data).

The disease hits close to home, as well. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services projected Beaufort County to have almost 60 cases of breast cancer last year, labeling it as the form of cancer with the highest incidence and tied only with lung cancer.

With all types of cancer, early detection remains the most sure-fire way to meet cancer head on and beat it. The earlier the stage, the better chance a patient has of surviving.

There are a few symptoms to watch out for: lump in the breast or underarm; thickening or swelling of part of the breast; irritation or dimpling of breast skin; redness or flaky skin; pulling in of the nipple; unusual nipple discharge; any change in the size or the shape of the breast; pain in any area of the breast, including the nipple.

If one experiences any of these symptoms, it is imperative to call a doctor immediately. Women — and men — should regularly perform self-breast exams, especially if over the age of 40 or if there is a family history of breast cancer.

However, by the same token, someone who suspects a problem should not panic. The first step is going to the doctor. Beaufort County Health Department reports that only about 20 percent of breast lumps turn out to be cancer, but it’s still important to take precautions.

The goal is to be informed and observant — not panicking. That is how to take charge of one’s health and stop cancer in its tracks.