October is breast-cancer awareness month. Learn the facts about breast cancer and why it's a major research focus at EVMS.

One in eight women will get breast cancer, and many don't know it's there until they feel a lump. Breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most easily treated, which is why screening is important for early detection.

Here are more facts about the disease that explain why it’s a major focus of cancer research at EVMS:

  • It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women
  • It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women
  • If diagnosed early, the five-year relative survival rate is 98 percent
  • More than 3 million breast cancer survivors are alive today in the U.S.
  • In Virginia, more than 4,500 women are diagnosed each year
  • Only 61 percent of Virginia women with breast cancer are diagnosed early

Researchers at the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center collaborate with scientists around the country to find ways to improve techniques for early diagnosis, predict how patients will respond to therapies and develop more effective treatments. Learn about the latest breast cancer research at EVMS.

Certain changes might be warning signs of breast cancer. If you notice any of the following, you should be checked by your healthcare provider:

  • Firm lump or hard knot that feels different from the rest of the breast or underarm area
  • Change in skin texture or color
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Newly retracted (pulling in) of the nipple
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

Starting around age 20, women should perform breast self-exams at least monthly. Getting to know the normal look and feel of your breasts makes it easier to recognize changes and alert your healthcare provider. Learn how to perform a breast self-exam.

In recent years, there has been conflicting guidance about how often women should have mammogram screenings. EVMS experts still recommend that most women start having annual mammograms at age 40. But every woman should talk to her healthcare provider about personal risk factors and screening needs.

If you or a woman you care about lives in Norfolk or Portsmouth and has no health insurance to cover a mammogram, learn about a unique collaboration between EVMS and other healthcare providers that might be able to help.