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Health > More Health StoriesFall 2011 IS Magazine

What You Need to Know about Breast Cancer

The key is early detection.

By Ignacio Lobos

I work for a cancer research center and make time to remind friends about Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October. And it’s not just part of my job: I have friends who have endured breast cancer, and my mom recently spent a few worrisome weeks waiting for a second opinion following a mammogram.

First, some encouraging news. While breast cancer remains the most common type of cancer among women, it’s becoming more treatable. The five-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer now stands at nearly 90 percent.

Today, most women who have been treated for breast cancer are expected to live a full life without a recurrence. Survival rates get even better when breast cancer is detected before it spreads, with a five-year survival rate of 98 percent.

The key, of course, is detecting cancer at its earliest stages. That’s why women should have a clinical breast exam (manual examination of the breasts by an ob-gyn or other medical professional) at least every three years, starting in their early 20s.

Women age 40 and over should also have a mammogram (breast X-ray) every one to two years. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have a mammogram.

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