October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – is a good time to make sure you know what increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer and why early detection is so important.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. (Men can also get breast cancer, although it’s rare.) Statistically, about one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in her life. The good news is, many women can and do survive the disease if it is detected and treated early.

Take the following quiz to learn more and then send it to all the women in your life: mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, daughters and friends.

Breast Cancer Quiz

1.    Breast cancer is most effectively detected in the early stages by mammography. True or False?

ANSWER: True. A mammogram (a low-dose X-ray of the breasts) can be done in a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic. Regular breast cancer screening with self-exams and an annual doctor exam, combined with mammograms, can find breast cancer at an early, highly treatable stage.  Medicare, Medicaid and most private health insurance will pay for mammograms with little or no co-payment.

2.    What’s the best age to start getting mammograms?

a.    40

b.    50

c.     55

d.    Depends on your health and family history

ANSWER: D. While most women get a baseline mammogram around age 40, you may need one earlier if there is a history of breast cancer in your family or your health indicates a need for earlier tests. If your mother, aunt or sister has had breast cancer, you will need a mammogram earlier than the age she was diagnosed. Talk with your doctor about when you need to start getting regular mammograms, based on your personal risk.

3.    What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

a.    Lumps in the breast or underarm area

b.    Dimpled or pitted skin

c.     Warm, swollen or scaly nipples

d.    Breast discharge or unusual tenderness not related to menstrual cycle

e.     Changes in size or shape of breast or nipple

ANSWER:  All of the above. Generally, breast cancer has no symptoms until the cancer begins to grow. Examine your breasts monthly to check for any of these changes and report them promptly to your health care provider.

4.    What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

a.    Being younger than 45

b.    Being overweight

c.     Having more than one alcoholic drink a day

d.    Family history of cancer in your mother, aunt or sister

e.     Menstrual periods that begin after age 16

ANSWER: B, C and D are correct.  A. is incorrect because most breast cancer occurs in women between the ages of 50 and 80. The risk doubles after age 50.

E. is incorrect because it is more common in women who begin their menstrual periods at age 12 or younger.

5.    There’s nothing you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer if you are destined to get it. True or False?

ANSWER: False! Cancer is not inevitable. Here are five lifestyle choices you can make that will greatly reduce your risk:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce or limit estrogen (birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy)
  • Eat a healthy diet