Learn How to Care for Your Breasts to Prevent and Detect Breast Cancer
Knowing your body can save your life. The early stages of breast cancer, especially those found from self-screening, are the most successfully treated. Many diagnosed women discover their own breast cancer through changes in the look and feel of their breasts. You can become familiar with your breast tissue by looking at and feeling your breasts each month to learn what is normal for your body.
There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts, as long as you learn the entire area of your breast tissue – from your collarbone, under your armpits and your nipples – well enough to notice any changes. The best time to perform a breast self-exam is after your menstrual cycle ends each month, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen. If you no longer have your menstrual cycle, choose a day that’s easy to remember for your self-exam.
Breast awareness is crucial to prevention and early detection. The MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Medical Center urges you to report these eight breast changes that you may find in a monthly exam to your doctor:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
Many factors are linked to your risk for breast cancer. Simply being a woman and getting older increase this risk. While numerous risk factors — exposing us to the reality of cancer — exist that we cannot control, leading a healthy lifestyle can help lower your chances of getting breast cancer.
According to Homayoon Sanati, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Breast Center, “The risk of being diagnosed increases with age, particularly after menopause. However, I would always encourage anyone to inform a physician as soon as possible if they notice any unusual changes in their body.”
So, by adopting healthy behaviors and being proactive with your breast care, you can help to lower the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. Follow these helpful tips to stay one step ahead:
Know Your Risk
- Learn about your family health, especially cancer, history
- Talk to a physician about your personal risk of breast cancer
- If you are at a higher risk, ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you
- Begin annual mammograms starting at age 40
- Have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Add exercise into your routine
- Limit alcohol
- Limit postmenopausal hormone use
- Breastfeed if possible
Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Some women are genetically predisposed to the disease. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no risk factors other than being female. Many lead healthy lives and have no symptoms until a mammogram detects an abnormality. Others find an unfamiliar change in the breast and seek care.
By educating yourself on the controllable factors that increase risk, performing monthly self-exams and getting regular clinical breast exams and mammograms you can reduce your chance of diagnosis OR increase the likelihood that if breast cancer is diagnosed that it is found early and is curable! That is showing breast cancer who’s boss!