October is breast cancer awareness month. As a 2-time breast cancer survivor this writer has a particular interest in this issue.

October is breast cancer awareness month. As a 2-time breast cancer survivor this writer has a particular interest in this issue.

My cancer was detected during a routine mammogram. I had no idea that cancer was growing inside of me. My sister’s cancer was also discovered during a routine exam five years earlier. It is a known fact that screening increases the chances of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be curable.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer during her lifetime is about 12 percent, with means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer.

Some risk factors can be controlled by the individual, some cannot. Factors that you must deal with, but cannot change include being a woman (even though men can also get breast cancer), getting older, certain inherited genes, family or personal history of breast cancer, and your race and ethnicity.

The risk factors that you can control have to do with lifestyle. These include drinking alcohol, being overweight, not having children, and not being physically active. Keeping these in check has multiple health benefits, not just regarding breast cancer.

Self-examination and mammograms are the easiest ways to determine if cancer exists. Many women are afraid of mammograms and put them off, and even adopt an attitude of “I don’t want to know.” This attitude can be deadly. By putting off screening tests you run the risk of detecting the cancer in a much more advanced stage, which usually means more aggressive treatments.

So, the bottom line is that all women should talk to their doctors about any risk factors that they have. Don’t put it off. Talk to someone you know who has been through this if you are apprehensive about any procedures. And, by all means, treat your body well. It’s the only one you have.