Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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It's estimated that more than 225,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 alone.
Living in Arizona, we might be predisposed to worry about skin cancer first; after all, it is the most common cancer women are diagnosed with here. However, breast cancer is a close second.

Cancer develops when cells reproduce faster than they need to. The extra cells can then congregate and create a mass or tumor.

Those tumors can come in two different forms: benign and malignant. If categorized as benign, there is less of a risk, since the abnormal cells aren't likely to spread or grow back after they've been removed. Malignant tumors are more likely to return or even grow beyond the original tumor.

Many breast masses are benign, but it's important to have them checked to be sure.

After age 40, women should receive a mammogram once every year or two, based on individual history and risk. The mammogram will take an x-ray picture of the breast and ensure that there aren't any developing lumps that need further examination.  

In the years before a mammogram, and in the months between, it's critical that women perform monthly self-breast exams. These are vital in noticing an irregularity at an early stage. To make sure you don't forget, designate a certain day of every month and mark it on your calendar.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a proper self-examination:

·    Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips. While standing like this, check your breasts for any abnormalities.
·    Next raise your hands above your head to check for any changes.
·    Lastly, lie down and using the pads of your opposite hand's fingers, check for any lumps around all the areas of your chest, even the armpit area and around the collarbone.

If you notice anything usual or new, be sure to consult your physician. This is especially important if you observe any of the following:
·    Lumps
·    Changes in firmness
·    Discharge
·    Skin dimpling
·    Changes in size or shape

Breast cancer can also be detected through a regular breast exam with your doctor. It's also important to keep in mind that women are not the only ones who are at risk. Although rare, it is possible for men, and it's estimated that about 2,000 cases will be diagnosed in 2012.

You can lower your risk for breast cancer by living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet, and limited alcohol intake can all contribute to making you healthier.

Finally, know your family health history as this can be a good indicator of your risk level.

*This is not a medical recommendation, anyone with concerns or questions about their health should contact their physician. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Source: National Cancer Institute

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