Each year, the month of October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Spearheaded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, this annual initiative serves to raise awareness about breast cancer and offer support to those impacted by the disease. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 268,600 new cases of breast cancer in 2019. Breast cancer is also the second most common cancer in women behind skin cancer. Furthermore, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Given these statistics, I would like to use this week’s column to share information about breast cancer risks and warning signs as well as the important role cancer screenings and early detection play in fighting the disease.

Breast cancer occurs when malignant cells grow in the tissue of the breast. These cells sometimes form into a tumor, which can be felt as a new lump or mass in the breast. While this new lump, along with other unusual changes, may indicate the presence of cancerous cells, breast cancer does not always present physical symptoms in the earliest stages of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, however, cancer found at an early stage – when it is small and has not spread – is easier to treat. For this reason, screening exams, such as mammograms, are key to finding cancers before they start to cause symptoms, known as early detection.

Breast cancer screenings are recommended for all women beginning after the age of 40. However, individuals with a higher risk of the disease may need to be screened earlier and more often. There are several key factors that are used in determining a person’s risk level of developing breast cancer, such as age, ethnicity and family history. While some men, especially those with a genetic history of the disease, have a risk of breast cancer, women represent 99 percent of all breast cancer cases and have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer than men. In addition, the American Cancer Society states lifestyle also plays an important role in determining a person’s risk level. These factors can include weight, alcohol and tobacco use, physical activity level and diet.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I hope you will join me in supporting all those impacted by breast cancer. I also encourage you to take the time to learn more about this disease. To learn more about this important awareness month, you can visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation. More information visit the National Cancer Institute, Finally, for information about the different symptoms and risk factors for breast cancer, please review the American Cancer Society’s guide.

If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature Online. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.