Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, we have decided to play our role in spreading awareness. Our aim is to help you learn how to self examine, when to get a mammogram, understand your risks, and practical tips for listening to your body.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a disease which involves the abnormal growth of cells and it’s invasion to other parts of the body. Breast cancer is cancer that develops in the breast tissue. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in the United States. Hence, the need to spread awareness about it. Although men can also develop breast cancer, it is more common in women. It is equally as important to acknowledge and understand metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and currently has no cure.
What causes breast cancer?
Factors such as age, genetics, obesity, and being a woman are the main reasons that contribute towards your risk of developing breast cancer. Apart from those, previously pre-existing breast conditions, radiation exposure, alcohol consumption, dense breast tissue, or a history of breast cancer or lumps increase chances of breast cancer. Similarly, a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has an immediate relative who has breast cancer. If you have a family member or multiple family members with breast cancer, it is advisable to see a specialist earlier in life and get monitored more regularly.
What is My Risk of Getting Breast Cancer?
Sadly, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their life. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has an immediate family member who has breast cancer.
About 85% of women who develop breast cancer have no known family history of it in contrast to women with inherited gene mutations. This occurs due to genetic mutations that occur as a result of increasing age and life in general. Age and gender play the most significant roles.
How Often Should I Self Examine and Get Screened for?
Early detection plays a vital role in treating and recovering from breast cancer. Moreover, becoming familiar with your breasts through self examination is critical in knowing and understanding your body. This, in turn, helps you recognize unusual changes. Any changes such as lumps, discharge from your nipples, pain, changes in size or appearance, or skin disruptions such as flakiness should receive medical attention.
In conclusion, experts agree that women should talk to their doctors about breast cancer screening from age 40 onwards. Women age 50 and above should talk to their doctor about getting screened every 2 years. As mentioned above, if an immediate family member has breast cancer, you should consult with a doctor for a personalized plan of action and early detection.
How to self examine your breasts:
Self examination for breast cancer is fairly easy and can be done using your hands. No special equipment is required at all for self examining your breasts.
Stand in front of a mirror and undress the upper portion of your body.
- Face forward and look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in size, shape or symmetry.
- Check to see if your nipples are turned in (inverted).
- Inspect your breasts with your hands pressed down on your hips.
- Inspect your breasts with your arms raised overhead and the palms of your hands pressed together.
- Lift your breasts to see if ridges along the bottom are symmetrical.
Next, use your hands to examine your breasts.
- Lying down. Choose a bed or other flat surface to lie down on your back. When lying down, breast tissue spreads out, making it thinner and easier to feel. Thoroughly use varied pressure to inspect the breast tissue.
- In the shower. Lather your fingers and breasts with soap to help your fingers glide more smoothly over your skin.
Remember to take your time and follow a pattern such as a clockwise motion when inspecting your breasts. This ensures that you have thoroughly gone over all the tissue. Consult your doctor immediately if anything seems out of the norm.
We hope that this clears up any confusion you have regarding breast cancer. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes whole foods and exercise helps reduce health problems and your risk for cancer. Let us know your thoughts on breast cancer and its awareness in the comments.