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Breast cancer

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:50 pm
According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Between birth and age 90, a woman has about a one in nine chance of developing the disease. That's why it's so important to examine your breasts monthly for the early signs of breast cancer. Your doctor can teach you breast self-examination and may recommend that you have a mammogram, which is a low-dose X-ray of the breast that can detect a lump before it can be felt. In addition to lumps, some other signs to look for include changes in the nipple, puckering in the skin of the breast, bleeding or other discharge from the nipple, or an unusual rash on the breast or nipple. Mammography is recommended for women in higher risk groups, including women over the age of 50, women who've had no children or have had a first child after 30, and women with a close relative who's had breast cancer. Most breast lumps are benign (be-NINE). Only about 20 percent of breast lumps are malignant, but when cancer is found, early treatment offers the best chance for a cure. If a suspicious area is seen on a mammogram, a biopsy will be performed to make a diagnosis. If cancer is detected, it will most likely require surgery, either a lumpectomy (lump-eck-toe-mee), which is the removal of the tumor, followed by radiation, or a mastectomy, which is the complete removal of the breast. Remember, the best tool in the fight against breast cancer is early detection. For more information, contact a health care provider.
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