October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign that raises awareness of breast cancer risks, the importance of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of several forms of breast cancer. In 2016, an estimated 246,000+ new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women throughout the United States; roughly 2,600 new cases will be diagnosed in men.1

Despite the high numbers breast cancer effects, many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. It is highly encouraged that women (age 40+) have scheduled mammograms—the screening test for breast cancer—especially women ages 50-74, who should be screened every two years.2

There are also several lifestyle changes that studies show can decrease the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, even in high-risk women, according the Mayo Clinic3. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Never smoking (or, quitting if you currently smoke)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Breast-feeding

For a more comprehensive list of risk factors for breast cancer, check out the American Cancer Society’s4 website.

According to the American Cancer Society, it’s important to know what your breasts normally look and feel like so you can more easily detect changes and seek treatment as soon as possible.4 Different signs and symptoms4 of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (regardless of a lump)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaling, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (besides breast milk)

Take the necessary steps now, especially if you know you’re at a higher risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer, so you have a better chance of effective treatment. Get started by creating an Early Detection Plan, which includes doing monthly breast self-exams, visiting your doctor for scheduled clinical breast exams, and following your health care provider's recommendations for mammograms, which will depend on your age and health history.

Friendly reminder: Members of the Compass Rose Health Plan (women age 35 and older) are covered at 100% for annual routine mammograms. See page 32 of the 2017 FEHB plan brochure for more information.


  1. http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
  2. https://healthfinder.gov/nho/pdfs/octobernhotoolkit.pdf
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/breast-cancer-prevention/art-20044676
  4. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-risk-factors