Unfortunately, being born female is the main risk factor for breast cancer. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. That’s one in eight mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, neighbors and co-workers. However, when detected early the majority of breast cases are treated successfully. And with the help of advanced screening and increased awareness, we can find the disease in its earliest stage.
Breast Health Basics
A breast cancer diagnosis means a woman (or man in some cases) has cells in one or both of their breasts that have begun to grow out of control. Breast cancer can start in any part of the breast (lobules, ducts, nipples, fat and connective tissue, blood vessels or lymph vessels) and spread to other parts of the body if not treated.
While breast cancer is the most serious and life threatening condition, non-cancerous breast conditions are very common. The following conditions can occur at any age and while never life threatening should be discussed with a doctor:
- Fibrosis and Cysts
- Benign Breast Tumors
- Other Benign Breast Conditions
Routine care is the best way to keep you and your breasts healthy. The type of breast exam you need will depend on your age and risk factors.
- Self Breast Exams. It is important to be aware of changes in the appearance and feel of your breasts. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. This will help you become familiar with the regular feel and appearance of your breasts and help you notice if something has changed. Here are some helpful tips and tricks.
- Clinical Breast Exams. Women 21-65 should have a clinical breast exam performed during their annual Well Woman visit. Your doctor or nurse will use their hands to carefully feel your breasts and surrounding areas for any changes or abnormalities, such as a lump.
- Mammogram. All women should have a preventative mammogram performed every year starting at age 40. If you fall into this category and have not had a mammogram in the last 365 days, now is the time to get it scheduled. Visit our website or call 225-924-8319 to make an appointment today. If you have a family history of breast cancer, check with your doctor about whether you should begin mammography at an earlier age or need more frequent mammograms.
Maintaining Good Breast Health
There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing risk factors that are under your control.
- Get to and stay a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Stay at a healthy weight throughout your life and avoid excess weight gain by balancing your food and drink intake with physical activity.
- Be physically active. Evidence is growing that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, especially in women past menopause. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these).
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. It is best not to drink alcohol. Women who do drink should have no more than one a day.
- Breastfeeding. Most studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it continues for a year or more.
- Get Familiar with your Breasts. Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of your breast health. Although having regular screening tests for breast cancer is important, mammograms do not find every breast cancer. This means it’s also important for you to know what your breasts normally look and feel like, so you’ll be aware of any changes in your breasts.
- Know Your History. About 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene changes (mutations) passed on from a parent. While you can’t control your genetics, you can let your doctor know about your family history which may determine what screenings you get and how often.
Concerning Breast Symptoms
- New Lump or Mass
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
- Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone (Sometimes this can be a sign of breast cancer spread even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your primary care physician or gynecologist right away or find one here.
To learn more about breast health or to schedule a mammogram, visit our website.