October Marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month

State Health Commissioner Urges Women to Get Screened for Breast Cancer; Early Detection Key to Effective Treatment

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged all women to learn about their risk and talk to their health care provider about getting screened for breast cancer.

"All women over 40 should get a mammogram every one to two years to protect their health," Commissioner Daines said. "Today, thanks to early detection and treatment advances, women are surviving breast cancer and living longer, healthier lives. When breast cancer is found early, 97 percent of the cases can be effectively treated."

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death among women in New York State. Last year, about 14,000 women in New York State were newly diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 2,900 women died from the disease.

Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, the following factors may increase a woman's risk for breast cancer:

  • Advancing age
  • Being younger when you had your first menstrual period
  • Starting menopause at an older age
  • Never giving birth or delayed giving birth to first child until age 30 or older
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Having a personal or family history (on the mother's or father's side) of breast cancer, or carrying certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being sedentary
  • Having a history of radiation exposure to the chest
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy for an extended period of time.

"Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that you will be diagnosed with breast cancer," said Dr. Daines. "Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any risk factors or unusual symptoms. Women who are concerned about their risk of breast cancer should talk to their health care provider, and those with a personal or family history of breast cancer might also consider genetic counseling."

Although there is still much to be learned about the causes of breast cancer, there are many ways men and women can live a healthy lifestyle and help improve outcomes related to cancer. These include not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting recommended cancer screenings.

There are programs statewide that offer support or legal services to women with breast cancer and their families. New York State funds Cancer Services Program Partnerships to provide access to breast cancer screening to uninsured women, ages 40 and older. To find a Cancer Services Program Partnership in your community, visit http://www.nyhealth.gov/nysdoh/cancer/center/partnerships/ or call 1-866-442-CANCER (2262). You can also call this number to locate a genetic counselor, legal services and breast cancer support programs in your region.

For more information about breast cancer, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/index.htm