By now, most everyone is aware of breast cancer thanks to its many fundraisers and walks, as well as breast cancer awareness month. But are you doing what you need to do to protect and detect for yourself? WebMD cites breast cancer as the most common cancer in women, and the second leading cause of death for women. So, as a responsible “Ms. in the Biz,” protect your lady parts! You’ve probably heard the following piece of advice over and over again, but it’s only because it’s TRUE and extremely important: Early detection is the key to having better outcomes for any disease.
The best place to start is to educate yourself about breast cancer, and the next thing to do is to follow through with recommended actions- such as breast self-exams and yearly clinical breast examinations. Just because breast cancer isn’t in your family doesn’t mean you can’t get it. Just because it is doesn’t mean that you will, either, but anything is possible. If you have breast tissue, it’s possible to get breast cancer. This goes for men as well, so ladies, aside from your own chest feel up your man’s chest…you know, to protect them.
The American Cancer Society lists the following as risk factors for breast cancer:
-Increasing age- Woohoo, no one can avoid this one.
-Genes. Nearly 5% to 10% of breast cancer is linked to mutations in certain genes (most commonly, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes).
-Family history of the disease
-Personal history of the disease
-Race- It states that white women have a slightly greater risk of getting breast cancer compared with —African-American women; however, African-Americans have a greater chance of dying from this disease. Other races and ethnicities are at a lower risk.
-Earlier abnormal breast biopsy
-Earlier chest radiation
-Early onset of menstruation (before age 12) or menopause after age 55
-Not having children
-Medication use, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)
-Too much alcohol- you don’t have to curb back the partying, just the amount of alcohol consumption. This has health benefits other than decreasing risk for breast cancer, benefits like weight loss and decreased fatigue.
-Obesity- we all fight with our weight, so here’s yet another reason to keep at those hours of exercise and low-calorie meals.
What you need to do, and actually do it:
People of all ages need to do a self breast exam every month. You know your body better than anyone else. You will be more in tune to something amiss/changing during your self breast exam. Granted, some changes to the breast occur naturally thanks to those wonderful monthly cycles women experience. Your breasts may feel tender, swollen, or a little lumpy right before or during a menstrual cycle, so it’s best to do the exam one week after your menstrual period begins, because that is the time where it’s least likely your breasts will be swollen or tender. Or, for post menopausal women, check them on the same day of the month every month.
Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) conducted by a health professional at least every three years. And women 40 years of age and older should have one every year.
Starting at age 40, women should have a mammogram every year and continue as long as they are in good health. What is a mammogram, you ask? It’s an x-ray of the breast and can detect early signs of cancer.
Now, you should talk with your doctor to determine if you are at higher risk than normal for developing breast cancer. If you are, there are other measures to be taken and you’ll want to start the screening processes at an earlier age as well. Protect your lady parts the best you can and make an appointment with your doctor today. Next month we’ll discuss signs and symptoms of breast cancer so you’ll know what you’re looking for.