SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, which reminds women of the importance of early detection and prevention. Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer death among women but early detection can prevent the disease from becoming deadly.

“The early signs of breast cancer are very hard to notice yourself,” said Physician Ann Friedrich from Baystate Health.

Taking charge of your health can prevent a potentially life-threatening diagnosis. The average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13 percent. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. However, with the types of screenings available today, a breast cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence.

Family history plays a major role in a woman’s risk factor and is used to determine when women should begin doing screenings.

“For some patients, it’s earlier than you think. Some patients should be starting screening in their early twenties,” said Dr. Friedrich. She is urging women to talk with their primary care doctor or OBGYN to find out when they should be getting screened.

There are several screening modalities, including ultrasounds and MRI’s, though mammograms are the most common and have been essential in preventing deaths.

“This is an excellent screening tool. It’s use has actually decreased a lot of the complications and a lot of the mortality that used to be associated with breast cancer,” said Dr. Friedrich.

For West Springfield resident Abi Reyes, breast cancer prevention hits close to home, “Eight years ago, I lost my 27-year-old sister due to breast cancer so I would recommend women to see if they have any pain or discomfort to get checked.” Ann added, “If it’s caught early, it has an excellent prognosis and so when in doubt, I would go and talk to your provider.”

In addition getting a screening, it’s also recommended to look out for early signs of breast cancer, including any changes to the skin or appearance of the breast or abnormal masses.