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The importance of checking for breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and early detection is a big part of treating the disease.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and doctors are urging women to schedule their annual screening. 

According to the CDC, other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.

When it comes to detecting breast cancer, one of the most important things to look for is a lump in the breast or around the armpit. 

Other common symptoms include breast pain, change in the size or shape of breasts, change in the appearance of one or both nipples or abnormal nipple discharge.

The average age doctors recommend getting mammograms is in your 40s and 50s, but doctors say it’s never too early to do self-examinations because cancer can strike at any age.

Dr. Camille Richards is a general surgeon at Baptist Health in Fort Smith and says family history is also a key factor in your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer. This is why it's important to discuss medical history with family members.

"Having an awareness if your mother had a small breast cancer or early breast cancer, or if an aunt or a sister had similar findings that you may have a need for earlier screening or genetic testing and make sure you're not at a higher risk for developing breast cancer," Dr. Richards said.

Dr. Richards also stresses the importance of self-examinations between doctor visits. 

“For an average female the risk of breast cancer is about 12.5% in your lifetime and that’s with no predisposed risks, so if you aren’t getting your screening it may mean that if you do develop breast cancer we find it at a later stage where it still may be treatable but your chances of survival may be lower,” Dr. Richards said.

Click here for information about the BreastCare program from the Arkansas Department of Health

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