October dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer

27 Sep 2007 | Lance Cpl. Michael R. Stevens

Every three minutes a woman in the United States becomes diagnosed with breast cancer.

October, known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of early detection, which increases the chances of catching the disease before it spreads.

In 1960, one in twenty women became diagnosed with the disease. Today the average is one in eight.

“One of the most important factors of the month is teaching young women how to conduct self-evaluations,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian D. Lawenda, the department head for the Breast Health Center and clinical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at Naval Medical Center San Diego. “Self-evaluations include checking your body for lumps that were not previously there.”

Lawenda encourages young women to start self-examinations at age 20 and to begin getting regular mammograms at age 40."

The most common sign of breast cancer, a new, hard and painless lump, can be discovered during regular self-examinations.

Other symptoms include swelling of part of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or the nipple turning inward, redness of nipple and breast skin, nipple discharge (other than breast milk) and a lump in the underarm area, according to

“Upon discovery of the lump, immediately bring it to the attention of your primary care physician for a complete formal evaluation,” said Lawenda. “Standard removal is surgery by mastectomy, which is complete removal, or lumpectomy combined with radiation therapy,” said Lawenda.

Although primarily found in females, males can be diagnosed with the cancer and suffer similar results.

In comparison to females, less than one percent of males are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Males who discover a lump in their breast area should follow the same guidelines and report the findings to their physician as soon as possible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer has become the most common form of cancer in women and the number one cause of cancer deaths in Hispanic women.

In the San Diego area, teams have registered to participate in the Breast Cancer Three Day, a 60-mile walk lasting three days, and dedicated to raising awareness of the disease and seek funds to donate to breast cancer research. The event begins Nov. 9 at Del Mar Fairgrounds and ends Nov. 11 at PETCO Park in San Diego.

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