While you should prioritize your health year-round, October is an excellent time to learn more about an issue that 12 percent of women will be diagnosed with during their lifetimes: breast cancer. This disease, which is found in nearly 300,000 women each year, is the focus of an awareness campaign run by cancer organizations every October. If you aren’t familiar with the facts, check out this important information concerning this illness.

What are some risk factors?

While many cancers are linked to genetics, breast cancer doesn’t discriminate based on family history. DoSomething.org explains that the most influential risk factors for being diagnosed with this disease are simply being a woman and getting older. Age is extremely significant, as 95 percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S. are found in women above the age of 40. More invasive cases are diagnosed in women 55 and older, reports the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society explains that while only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are connected to hereditary issues, you should still be conscious of your genetic information. This is because breast cancers associated with family history are linked to mutations of certain genes, which can be discovered through some forms of testing. Additionally, women whose mothers, daughters or sisters have been afflicted with the disease are two times more likely to develop it than people without family history of breast cancer. There are also certain environmental and habitual factors that can increase your risk of contracting breast cancer, so discuss your lifestyle with your physician to see if you should make healthy changes.

Observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October by learning the facts.

Observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October by learning the facts.

What are mammograms?

Even if you’ve heard about mammograms, or even received them, chances are you’re still curious about how this procedure works. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mammograms are simply X-rays of breast tissue that physicians examine for initial signs of breast cancer. Because survival rates are extremely high in patients whose breast cancer was detected early, these tests are extremely important. The CDC recommends that women between the ages of 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years, though your physician may suggest more frequent exams depending on family history.

Many women don’t adhere to the recommended amount of tests because the procedure can be slightly painful. The CDC notes that while mammograms can cause discomfort for some, the irritation only lasts a short amount of time. If you’re particularly sensitive, tell the X-ray technologist ahead of time so he or she can be as gentle as possible.