How often do you get a breast exam? Do you conduct self-exams?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while this topic should be top of mind year-round, this is a good time to step back and make sure you are doing all that you can to keep your body and your breasts healthy.
The alarming fact that the U.S. will see roughly 268,00 new cases of advanced breast cancer and 41,760 breast cancer deaths this year is enough to scare anyone into action. And it should.
The good news is if breast cancer is detected early, the average five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer is 90%.
Here are some things you should know…
A Common Misconception
One common misconception about breast cancer is thinking that you are not at risk if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
Only 12 percent of people diagnosed with breast cancer have any family history of breast cancer. So, you need to get checked regularly no matter what your medical or family history is. You should have annual breast exams at the doctor’s office starting at age 18 and have annual mammograms starting at age 40. You should also examine your own breasts monthly, at the end of your menstrual period when breasts are least tender.
Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. One drink per day increases your risk by 7% to 10% compared with those who don’t drink, while women who have 2 to 3 drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk.
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). Getting to or going over the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal. So, get to the gym regularly. Take walks outside and enjoy the fall air. Hop on your bike for a ride before it gets too chilly. Just keep moving!
Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase the chances of getting breast cancer. Women who are overweight also tend to have higher blood insulin levels. Higher insulin levels have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. Remain within a healthy weight range and you will lower your risk.
Put These Three Things into Practice
Get Regular Mammograms – those over the age of forty should have this done annually.
Talk to Your Doctor – be open with your doctor about your lifestyle habits, family history, and your own medical history, and discuss how this might affect your risk. Ask questions. Don’t miss your annual physical exams.
Know your Breasts – You know your body better than anyone. Know what your healthy breasts feel like as a baseline. Then check monthly for any changes, lumps, rashes, etc. If anything feels or looks different from your baseline, go see your doctor.
Looking for something fun, physical, and philanthropic to do this month? Check out the POUND for Pink event raising money for METAvivor – an organization dedicated to metastatic breast cancer research, support, and awareness.