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Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States, regardless of race or ethnicity. Three of four cases of breast cancer arise in women with no known risk factors.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Pennsylvania in women between the ages of 25 and 54. Over 12,000 women in Pennsylvania are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. Currently, there are approximately 140,000 women in Pennsylvania living with breast cancer.

Nearly all breast cancers can be treated successfully if found early. When breast cancer is found at its earliest stage the five-year survival rate is 98%. There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors alive today in the United States. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Changes in the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
  • Inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, or flaking of the nipple, breast, or skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

Risk Factors

  • A personal history of breast cancer in one breast increases the risk of breast cancer in the other breast.
  • A family history of breast cancer in father, mother, sisters or grandmothers, particularly if the cancer occurred when the person was in their early 40's or younger
  • A family history of ovarian cancer. There is a breast-ovarian genetic connection.
  • Changes in certain genes, such as the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genes and others, increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Menstrual period before the age of 12.
  • Menopause after the age of 55.
  • Bearing your first child after the age of 30.
  • Never bearing a child.
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen AND progestin after menopause.
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Drinking alcohol - The more you drink, the greater the risk.
  • Smoking increases the risk of several cancers and is not recommended for anyone.

Recommendations for Early Detection

  • Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
  • Breast self exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.
  • Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderately increased risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.

Women's Cancer Support Group

The Women's Cancer Support Group welcomes women over the age of 20 affected by any form of cancer. Any woman, whether newly diagnosed, in the midst of chemotherapy or cancer-free for years, is welcome to attend. Meetings are held the first and third Mondays of every month, 6 pm - 8 pm, at Conemaugh East Hills, Suite 2400, 1450 Scalp Avenue, Johnstown, PA. For more information, please call (814) 266-9194. 

HealthBreak: Reconstruction Surgery for Breast Cancer Patients 

Kamran Shayesteh, DO, FACOS, Conemaugh Physician Group - Plastic Surgery, discusses reconstruction surgery options for breast cancer patients.