| Thu, Oct 24, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

breast cancer awarenessOctober is breast cancer awareness month. If you’re a woman, you should call your doctor and schedule an appointment for your annual breast cancer screening.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer a woman can get. The chance of getting breast cancer goes up as you get older. Once a woman is in her 60s, she is eight times more likely to get breast cancer than a woman in her 30s.1

The good news is that finding breast cancer early can save lives. One study even found that women whose cancer was caught early were over six times as likely to survive five years after being diagnosed than those whose cancer was detected much later.2 That’s why it’s important to get screened.

Read what The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The American Cancer Society and The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say about breast cancer screenings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – mammogram every two years for women ages 50 to 74. Women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their doctor about when and how often to get a mammogram.

The American Cancer Society – yearly mammogram starting at age 40 for as long as a woman is healthy. A breast exam by your doctor every year for women 40 and over. Women with a family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors, should have an MRI in addition to a mammogram as a precaution. Women should talk to their doctor about whether they should have extra tests at an earlier age.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – a group of independent health experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services –  Recommends routine screening of average-risk women begin at age 50, instead of age 40. Routine screening should end at age 74. Women should get screening mammograms every two years instead of every year.

Breast cancer screening guidelines vary depending on who you ask. It’s important to go to your doctor for a clinical breast exam and to talk about what screening guidelines are best for you.

Don’t rely on screenings only to protect your health. There are things you can do that may help to reduce your chance of getting breast cancer, such as:

Limit hormone therapy

Combination hormone therapy for more than 3 – 5 years increases the chance of breast cancer. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you.3

Know your family history

A woman who has one immediate female relative with breast cancer has almost 2 times the risk of a woman without a family history of getting breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor about special screening guidelines.

Limit alcohol.

The more alcohol you drink, the greater your chance of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol — including beer, wine or liquor — limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.

Avoid tobacco

There’s a possible link between smoking and breast cancer, particularly in premenopausal women.

Be physically active

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn may help prevent breast cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese can increase the chance of breast cancer. This is especially true if you become obese later in life, particularly after menopause.

Protect your health. Talk with your doctor today so a mammogram can be scheduled if needed.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Guidelines for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer: American Cancer Society (cancer.org)

Breast Cancer: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov)

Medicare Memo: Mammograms Help Save Lives: MedicareMadeClear.com

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Breast Cancer Risk by Age, 2010.

2 American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer Survival Rates by Stage, 2012.

3Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-cancer

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and American Cancer Society.

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