Breast Cancer Awareness Month: the importance of early detection and regular screening

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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. (KIEM) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A time to increase attention and raise awareness for the disease.

“The average woman is at risk of 15% to develop breast cancer over her lifetime,” according to Director of Oncology at St. Joseph Hospital Nawazish Khan, M.D.

Close to 300,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year and the disease is the second most common cancer among American women. This month, doctors are once again stressing the importance of early detection.

“If the breast cancer gets caught early on, survival at five years is 99%,” Khan says.

According to Khan, the biggest risk factors are aging, obesity, and alcohol and tobacco consumption. Changes in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes can also increase your risk.

“Unfortunately if there is a genetic risk that can cause an additional risk on top of all of these factors,” Khan says.

It’s important for women to get screened regularly. Most doctors recommend at 50 years old women get a mammogram every 2 years, but it’s something that can be discussed with your doctor even sooner.

“Between the age of 40 to 49 that should be discussed and highly considered but at the age of 50 it is recommended that women should get screening mammogram, which is the best tool for screening,” Khan adds.

There are 2 different types of mammograms: a 3D mammogram and screening mammograms. The latter is more common and has a lower chance of producing a false positive. Early detection means receiving treatment sooner rather than later.

“Just by simple screening local treatment can save a lot of stress and lives,” Khan says.

According to the CDC, between 2013 and 2017 452 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Humboldt County and 98 women have lost their lives to the disease.