October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; to honor the importance of awareness around this subject, Nat put together some information gathered from the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website to remind and/or enlighten readers to look out for their breast health.
According to NBCF, breast cancer cannot be prevented, but can be detected early through easy at-home awareness as well as technical testing.
Keep in mind that the presence of a lump does not immediately indicate cancer - breasts are characteristically lumpy by nature due to mammary glands & fat - it’s just one factor that sometimes translates to tumors.
Also keep in mind that it’s normal for breasts to be different sizes. No two breasts are perfectly identical and their asymmetry is often non-cancerous.
Three ways to stay “abreast” with your breast health include: self-exam, well-woman exam, & mammogram.
Self-Awareness - You know your body best. So, regular attention to the well-being of your breasts will help you determine when and if there are any differences. NBCF advises to take note if you experience any of these changes in your breasts:
- a lump or thickening of breast and/or underarm area
- change in the size or shape of breast
- skin dimpling or puckering
- an inward-turned nipple
- nipple discharge (different from lactation) or
- skin that is red, scaly, or swollen on the breast, nipple, or areola.
While these changes don’t directly indicate cancer, take note of them and report them to your healthcare provider to be on top of your health. It is recommended to do this monthly.
Self-exams can be performed: in the shower, in front of a mirror, or lying down.
Use the pads of your fingertips in a circular motion starting at your armpit, around your whole breast, and around the nipple, feeling for lumps, hardening, or knots. Look in the mirror for dimpling, puckering, or other changes. Some texture changes resemble that of an orange peel. Squeeze nipple for discharge. Lying down spreads the breast flat and allows you to feel around different angles.
Take note and report any changes to your healthcare professional.
Well-woman exam - Well-woman exams are performed yearly and include:
- Pap smear
- pelvic exam and
- breast exam.
During this exam, your healthcare provider or gynecologist can determine any concerns to be aware of. This is a great opportunity to bring to light any concerns you have regarding your breast and reproductive health.
Mammogram — An X-ray of the breast, mammograms detect tumors and abnormal conditions in breasts. Mammograms detect problems before a noticeable lump develops, so is a helpful precautionary screening. Mammograms are recommended by the NBCF to be conducted annually following 40 years of age and promote extended life-expectancy compared to women who choose not to undergo screenings.
Breast cancer is asymptotic in its early stages so detecting it is often difficult.
Some ways to reduce one’s risk of developing breast cancer involve embodying healthy habits, such as:
- Eating a balanced diet that includes fruit & vegetables
- Achieving & maintaining a healthy-for-you weight
- Staying physically active
- Limiting consumption of alcohol, and
- Refraining from smoking
Again, you know your body best and can spot noticeable differences through regular awareness.
Take care of your breasts, y’all!