tips for breast cancer screening and prevention

pathways to modern aging

tips for breast cancer screening and prevention

Prevention

Breast cancer affects over 200,000 women a year in the United States. There are many different kinds of breast cancer, and all of them can be developed by both women and men. For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, check out Cosán’s Guide to Breast Cancer: Common Symptoms and Signs.

Although predisposition to breast cancer is generally dependent on uncontrollable factors like age, sex, and genetics, there are a variety of lifestyle choices that can be made to greatly reduce the rest of development.

The CDC and the Mayo Clinic recommend making healthy lifestyle changes to combat the risk of breast cancer. Outside of regular exercise and keeping a healthy weight, some key recommendation are:

  • Talking to your doctor if your family has a history of breast cancer
  • Talking to your doctor about any hormone treatments you may be using, including oral contraceptives
  • Breastfeeding
  • Eliminating smoking
  • Limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption

The recommended limit of alcohol consumption from the Prevent Cancer Foundation is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. But, be careful. Alcohol consumption has different effects on different bodies, regardless of sex. Talk to your doctor about what is best for your unique body type.

Screening

            Breast cancer screening is just as important as prevention. Generally, women over 40 are encouraged to speak to their doctors about scheduling regular mammograms. However, it is recommended that all women over 50 receive a mammogram every 2 years. Additionally, it is recommended that both of these age groups receive a clinical breast exam (CBE) at least once a year.

            In between doctor’s appointments, you can self-check for breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that women (and men, though the frequency may differ) self-check their breast tissue once a month. If you menstruate, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you choose a time in your cycle when your breasts are the least tender. If you have reached menopause but still take some form of hormone therapy, talk to your doctor about the best time to check.

Some methods for performing a self-screen are:

In The Shower

  • Lather your breasts in soap
  • Use the pads of your fingers to glide over the skin and tissue, one breast at a time
  • Follow a specific pattern so that you cover all of your tissue
  • Go slowly and use different levels of pressure
  • Check the entirety of your underarm area
  • Learn more…

Lying Down

  • Lie on your bed or another flat surface
  • Do not wear a bra or other support device
  • Allow the breast tissue to rest and spread out
  • Use the pads of your fingers to glide over the skin and tissue, one breast at a time
  • Follow a specific pattern so that you cover all of your tissue
  • Go slowly and use different levels of pressure
  • Check the entirety of your underarm area
  • Learn more…

If you are unable to perform these exercises without help, you may want to talk to your doctor about increasing your frequency of clinical breast exams and other screening activities. Additionally, if you are prescribed any hormone-augmenting medications or therapies, keep an open dialogue with your doctor and your caregiver about any changes you may feel over the course of treatment.

The risk of breast cancer can be a frightening prospect for many women and men, so, while having these conversations may feel embarrassing for some, it is important to remember that a watchful eye may protect your health in the long-term. If possible, set reminders for yourself to self-screen, and schedule any mammograms or CBEs ahead of time.

With proper communication and coordinated efforts between yourself, your doctors, and your caregivers, screening and preventative activities can greatly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.