I have posted about breast cancer before, but as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the information bears repeating, I am reposting. A part of my life that I don't really share here is that I am a public health nurse, and I work in a women's clinic where I do breast cancer screening and education. Consequently, I have come to feel strongly about early detection/ screening and being aware of your body. I hope you will take a minute to read/ review and maybe make a few changes in your life if necessary.
Breast cancer is a frightening disease. Most women fear that they or someone they love will get it. Our fears may or may not be well- founded, but they are made worse when we hear statistics like:
- Over 40,000 people will die of breast cancer this year; about 400 of them will be men.
- 85% of all diagnoses have no family history.
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.Source: http://www.breastcancerawareness.com/facts.php )
Unfortunately, not all risk factors are things you can prevent, but here are a few things that can help you lower your risk of breast cancer:
- Exercise and make wholesome food choices. Make an effort to maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit alcohol intake and smoking.
- Be aware of your family history. Talk to your doctor if breast cancer is in your family. This may affect the recommendations your doctor has for you.
- If you are approaching menopause, evaluate with your doctor whether hormone replacement is necessary for you or not. (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/)
I like to tell the women I screen that doing a breast self exam isn't really about following a rigid set of instructions or searching for cancer. Thinking of it that way can cause anxiety that may cause you to avoid even thinking about it. I recommend being aware of your body- becoming familiar with what is normal for you. Think of it as a way to have peace of mind. If you do notice a change, whether it be a lump, a change in color or texture of the skin on your breast, a change in shape or appearance of any part of the breast, or anything out of the ordinary that persists and doesn't resolve, you should have it checked immediately by a health professional.
As women, we so often put all of our energy into taking care of other people that we fail to take care of ourselves. If you are not making your own health a priority, please consider that you can best care for those you love by keeping yourself healthy and, well, alive. What I'm saying is that there really isn't any good excuse for not giving your health the attention it deserves.
If money or lack of insurance/ underinsurance is an issue, there are programs that offer free or low cost mammograms to women over 40 each year if you meet certain income requirements. The clinic I work at is one of these programs, and there are programs like this all over the U.S. You can check out the CDC’s website to find out if you qualify.
OK- one more thing. Take a minute to check out this video. It is about a type of rare but highly dangerous form of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) in which there may not be a "lump", but rather changes in the outward appearance of the breast.