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Oct. 24, 2018

By Brittany Shoemake, MD

Awareness of a disease begins with education. Breast cancer is no different. It’s important to understand what it is so you know what to do if you’re diagnosed.

Breast cancer is the out of control growth and duplication of tissue cells in the breast. It affects both men and women, but is more common in women. Nearly one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the non-profit organization

More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Symptoms include lumps in the breast or armpit. Stay on the lookout for changes to the skin over the breast as well. Check for changes such as redness, thickening or dimpling.

Only a biopsy can determine if you have breast cancer. A biopsy is a careful sampling of abnormal tissue. Testing is done to find out if the cancer is sensitive to certain hormones. Your doctor will guide you on next steps for treatments.

There are ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Women ages 45-69 should get a yearly mammogram. A mammogram produces an X-ray image that helps doctors find abnormal cell growth. It’s more effective at early detection of breast cancer than a self-exam.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of breast cancer as well. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the cornerstones of great health. Women with family history or high risk factors for breast cancer may have the option to take medication.

Breast cancer affects many people each year. However, you can reduce your chances through preventive measures such as an annual mammogram and a healthy lifestyle. Be aware of the symptoms and contact your doctor if you suspect you may have breast cancer. Early detection and awareness will help your chances of beating the disease.

Brittany Shoemake, MD, is a primary care provider at WellMed at Trawood. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at El Paso. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Shoemake is board certified in internal medicine.

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