October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a reminder that breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the most common cancer among women.

About one in eight women born in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.

Because of advances in treatment and early detection, fewer women are dying of the disease. In fact, there are 3 million survivors of breast cancer in the United States today, the largest group of cancer survivors.

A mammogram can help to detect breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Knowing your body and knowing your risk factors are important, too.

There are some risk factors that can’t be changed, such as gender. Women are 100 times more more likely to get breast cancer than men, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Age matters, too. Two of every three invasive breast cancers are in women age 55 and older. About 5–10 percent of breast cancers are linked to genes passed down through families.

Lifestyle-related factors also play a role. Not having children or having a first baby after age 30 slightly increases the risk. So does alcohol. Women who imbibe two or more drinks a day have 1.5 times the risk of breast cancer as women who don’t drink.

Obesity, especially fat around the midsection, is another contributor. Studies also show that hormone replacementvtherapy after menopause (estrogen and progestin in combination) increases both the risk of breast cancer and the risk of dying of the disease.

Mammography, as prescribed by your doctor, is an essential screening tool. So is paying attention to your body. Here are some signs of breast cancer:

  • A lump in the breast or armpit that doesn’t go away after your menstrual period.
  • Changes in skin, especially skin that develops a texture like an orange peel.
  • A change in the nipple, including a burning sensation, dimpling, itching, retraction, scaling or ulceration.
  • Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple.
  • Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast.
  • A pain in one spot that doesn’t go away. If you have any of these signs, make an appointment to see your health care provider right away.

Get help from the experts

Designed by breast-health specialists and women just like you, the Christiana Care Breast Center at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute is the only facility in the region devoted exclusively to breast care, diagnosis and treatment. The Breast Center is available to all women who need routine screenings or further diagnostic procedures and treatments.