About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in her life. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we want to use this opportunity to spread the word about steps we, as women, can take to detect breast cancer early.
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years-old. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends that all women over 20 years-old complete a monthly breast self-exam. You've probably heard that at least every year at your annual check-up, but what does a self-exam really look like?
Monthly breast self-examination:
Pick the same day each month to complete your self-exam. Let this become part of your routine.
Pick a place to do your self-exam where you can see and feel every part of your breast. In the shower, in the bathroom in front of the mirror, or even lying down.
Take a look at your breast, your nipples, and the skin on your breast. You are looking for any changes such as a contour, swelling or dimpling of the skin.
Using your fingers, move around your breast in a circular motion from the outside to the center, covering all of your breast tissue. Also, explore with your fingers under your armpits. You are feeling for any lumps and bumps under the skin.
If you notice any changes at all, it is important to contact your health care provider right away.
It is also recommended for all women over 40 years-old to have a yearly mammogram, in addition to monthly self-exams. If you do have a family history, you should likely start mammograms much earlier.
What is your risk & what can you do to prevent it?
Unfortunately, there is a genetic component to developing breast cancer and you have no control over your risk. It is important, however to know whether or not you carry the genetic predisposition to getting breast cancer. If you have any close family history of breast cancer, you can specifically be tested for is the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about your family history.
What can you do to help decrease your risk of developing breast cancer?
Here are some of the ways to practice healthy behaviors and ultimately decrease your breast cancer risk, according to the CDC:
Keep a healthy weight
Limit your alcohol consumption
Avoid exposures to carcinogens (chemicals known to cause cancer)
Reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests (Xrays, CT scans, etc.)
Talk to your medical provider about the risks of any hormone replacement or birth control medication that you may be taking.
Early detection and prompt treatment may significantly increase a woman’s change to survive breast cancer.
Be proactive & take action against this disease. Know your risks, check yourself monthly, and practice healthy lifestyle behaviors.
For more information, I highly recommend checking out the following resources: