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Regular screenings key in the fight against breast cancer

Posted: 12:14 PM, Oct 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-15 14:14:59-04
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This article is the part of a monthly series of stories focused on cancer issues. Denver7 is proud to partner with the American Cancer Society, Cancer Support Community, Colorado Cancer Coalition and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HealthONE to bring you these stories, tips and resources.

DENVER — This year in Colorado, the American Cancer Society estimates 4,180 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 610 will die from the disease.

The good news is, awareness about early screening is working. According to a recent report from the ACS, death rates for breast cancer in the US dropped 40% between 1989 and 2017. This means 375,900 deaths were avoided during that time.

What is Breast Cancer?

To understand breast cancer, it’s first important to understand that cancer is the production of abnormal cells.

The body is programmed to routinely replenish cells in different organs. As normal cells age or get damaged, they die off and new cells take their place. This is what’s supposed to happen. Abnormal cell growth refers to a buildup of extra cells and typically happens when new cells form even though the body doesn’t need them or old, damaged cells don’t die off.

These extra cells slowly accumulate to form a malignant (or cancerous) tissue mass, lump, or growth called a tumor. These abnormal cells can destroy normal body tissue and spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system.

Risk Factors

There isn’t a sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are some things that will help reduce the risk of getting the disease.

  • It’s important to watch your weight because being overweight or obese can increase risk
  • Time spent sitting can increase the likelihood of getting cancer, especially for women
  • Regular exercise, spread out over the week, is important
  • Avoiding or limiting hormone replacement therapy
  • Limiting alcohol

Screening Guidelines

The American Cancer Society recommends that women at average risk have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year between the ages of 40 and 44. Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year and women 55 and older can continue with annual screening or they can switch to having a mammogram every other year. Women at an increased risk for breast cancer should talk with their physician about the best time to begin screening.

Healthcare professionals emphasize that there is value in conducting a regular breast self-exam in order to help identify breast cancer in its early stages. Sarah Cannon Cancer Network at HealthONE recommends that women ages 20+ conduct monthly breast self-exams.