Breast cancer is scary, but a cancer scare shouldn’t be the first time you think about breast health. Equipping yourself with knowledge is the first step to promoting good breast health and preventing breast cancer.
Be proactive about your health, and do what you can to improve your breast health.The more you know about breast cancer, the more you can do to protect yourself from the disease. Click To Tweet
Learn about breast cancer risk
The two biggest contributing risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older.
About 13% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and fewer than 5% of breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40.
However, there’s a difference between absolute and relative risk, and your personal risk for breast cancer may be higher than the average.
There are many other factors that increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.
Know breast cancer risk factors and understand that being at a higher risk for the disease affects the steps that you should take to screen for breast cancer:
Learn if you have dense breasts
Having dense breast tissue increases your risk for breast cancer. It’s also easier to miss cancers in women with dense breast tissue.
Cancer shows up white in a mammogram, and so does dense breast tissue. This makes it more difficult to detect small breast cancers with mammography.
Women with dense breasts should consider annual breast ultrasound screening in addition to mammography.
Know your family health history
You can’t prevent breast cancer — it affects women with or without a family history of breast cancer. However, having a family history of breast cancer significantly increases a woman’s risk for developing the disease.
Genetic testing can detect BRCA mutations and other gene mutations that increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.
Talk to your family members and find out if breast cancer runs in your family.
Maintain a healthy weight
Women within a healthy weight range after menopause are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are overweight or obese. Being physically active and eating a nutritious diet can help you stay at a normal weight.
You need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. It’s easier to stay active if you make it a normal part of your routine. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Eat proper portion sizes, and choose foods that are nutritious: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy.
Know your normal
A woman’s breasts change throughout her life. Sometimes these changes are healthy and normal, but sometimes changes in a woman’s breasts can indicate an underlying health problem.
However, what is normal for one woman isn’t normal for all women. It’s important to know what normal means for your breasts — size, shape, appearance, sensitivity — so you know when to talk to your doctor.
Talk to your doctor whenever you notice changes in your breasts.
Learn to identify the signs of breast cancer
Breast cancer can cause symptoms. This includes changes in the appearance of the skin, changes in breast size, the development of lumps, and changes in the nipple.
Being able to identify the common warning signs of the disease means that you can talk to your doctor as soon as there is a problem.
Remember that breast cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, though.
One of the most surprising symptoms of breast cancer is not having noticeable symptoms at all. This is one of the reasons why regular breast cancer screening is so important for women.
Screen for breast cancer
Breast cancer can’t be prevented, though a healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances. This means that early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer is key. Finding cancer in its early stages improves treatment, and increases a woman’s risk of overcoming the disease.
Women at an average risk for breast cancer should begin receiving annual screening mammograms at age 40. Consider automated breast ultrasound in addition to mammography if you have dense breasts.
The Breast Center has NAPBC accreditation and is an ACR Accredited Center of Excellence. Call 479-442-6266 to request an appointment.