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Series of Hope focuses on breast cancer awareness in Cumming
Runs every Sunday this October in FCN
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FORSYTH COUNTY -- Most people probably have seen the pink ribbons on jackets and shirts. They’ve seen sports teams display pink socks or arms bands. They’ve been asked to donate an extra dollar or two at the grocery store for breast cancer research.

But what everyone may not know, unless it has affected them directly or via a family member or friend, is just how much that research has helped save lives, and how much more can be done.

October is breast cancer awareness months, and the Forsyth County News is spending each Sunday in the month featuring facts, stories, tips and resources in our Series of Hope Breast Cancer Awareness spotlight, brought to you by Atlanta Asthetics.

One in eight

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women. So common that the chance a woman will develop the disease during the course of her lifetime is 1 in 8.

However, thanks to better education, improved diagnostics and more advanced care methods, survival rates have increased in recent years.

An estimated 246,660 women in the United states will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society, and an estimated 40,450 of those women will die.

Though the disease is most commonly associated with women, men can develop breast cancer, too – about 2,600 men will be diagnosed in 2016, and 440 men will die from it.

Who is at an increased risk?

The following factors may increase the risk of developing breast cancer:

• Age: Risk increases with age
• Genetic history: About 5-10 percent of breast cancers are genetically linked
• Family history: Women with a family history of breast cancer on either side have an increased risk of developing the disease.
• Menstrual periods: Women who get their first period before age 12 or went through menopause after 55 are at an increased risk.
• Having children late or not at all: Women who birth their first child after 30 or who never have children have a greater risk.
• Descent: Being of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent puts women at an increased risk.
• Radiation therapy to the chest: Radiation treatments to the chest, such as for Hodgkin’s Disease, between the ages of 10-30 have an increased risk.

Overcoming any obstacle

Those numbers may seem stark, but there are myriad ways to set yourself up in the best way possible against breast cancer.
Following is a screening guideline developed by the American Cancer Society for women with average risk:

• Age 20-30: Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast examination as part of the health exam.
• Age 40: Talk with you doctor about where to begin. Women should have the chance to begin screening if they choose.
• Age 45: Begin yearly mammograms.
• Age 55: Transition to mammograms every other year or continue with annual screenings, depending on preference.
• Age 55+: Continue having regular mammograms for as long as you’re in good health.

How to help yourself

Getting a doctor to perform screenings and exams is vital to early detection of breast cancer, but women can also put themselves in the best position to detect the disease early by performing a breast self-exam.

According to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, a breast-self exam helps you become familiar with your own visual appearance, feel and geography of your breasts, “making it easier to notice any changes” or abnormalities.

Following is a guide to performing a breast self-exam:

• Stand in front of a mirror and inspect both breasts for any changes in shape, color, nipple discharge, puckering or dimpling of the skin.

• Watch closely in the mirror as you press your hands on your hips. Check for any of the above changes.

• Lie down and put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head.

• Use the find pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps or thickenings in your right breast.

• Press your fingers on the breast using three levels of pressure: light, medium and firm.

• Move your fingers around the breast in a specific up and down pattern the same way every time to ensure you’ve gone over the entire breast.

• Examine these areas: from your underarm to lower bra line; across to the breast bone up to the collar bone; and back to your armpit.

• Examine your left breast using the finger pads on the right hand and follow the same steps.

Some women do this exam in the shower because when fingers glide over soapy skin, it can be easier to concentrate on texture.
If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.

For more information, questions, help or resources, contact the American Cancer Society or Northside Hospital-Forsyth.