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Decrease Breast Cancer Risk by Being Proactive
by Cynthia Toft
The numbers are daunting—almost 200,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year—but getting smart about your breast health doesn’t have to be. Begin lowering your breast cancer risk by following these eight steps:
1. Give your breasts a good look: Check out how your breasts look, not just how they feel. It’s normal if both breasts aren’t exactly the same size or shape as long as they’ve always been that way. Once a month look for signs of: redness, swelling, dimpling or puckering of the skin, darkening of skin, swelling in the lower armpit or any other changes since your last look.
2. Go ahead, touch your breasts: Examine your breasts a few days after your period ends — they’re usually less swollen or tender. If you’re postmenopausal, do your exam on the same day each month. Don’t know how to do a self breast exam? Simply call one of Madigan’s breast health nurse specialists at (253) 968-0975 for assistance in learning how easy it can be.
3. Know what you’re feeling for: Once you know what your normal breast tissue feels like, see your health care provider if you feel anything unusual.
4. Note the nipples: A woman’s nipples can hold important clues to your breast health. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor.
5. Talk technique with a professional: Your physician or nurse practitioner is another key part of your know-your-breast success. Have your provider perform a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40.
6. Test yourself: A mammogram can find early stage breast cancers and is still the gold standard in screening. Mammograms can cut breast cancer deaths by as much as one third, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. You should get a mammogram every one to two years starting at age 40 and once a year after age 50.
7. Know your Family’s breast health history: Tell your provider if any Family member, male or female, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and their age at the time they were diagnosed. Mention any Family history of ovarian cancer. Research shows that there can be a shared genetic component between breast and ovarian cancers. All this information together, can help your doctor understand your personal risk and recommend appropriate screening.
8. Beyond your breasts: Being armed with information can help you detect breast cancer. When breast cancer is diagnosed, before it has spread beyond the breast, the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. Good health habits can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer in the first place. Keep your weight in check. Studies show that body fat boosts your risk of post menopausal breast cancer. Stay physically active.
The Women’s Health Initiative found that women who walked briskly for 30 minutes a day five times a week reduced their risk of breast cancer by 20 percent, no matter what their personal risk factors for the disease.
So get started on reducing your risk for breast cancer today! Get acquainted with your “normal” look and feel. Report any changes to your provider. Schedule a clinical breast exam with your primary care provider and have your screening mammogram done.