It’s breast cancer awareness month, but I wanted to talk about what you should be aware of no matter what time of the year it is. Breasts are made of a complex system made of glands and ducts, no two are alike. We should know what they feel like, be aware of any changes, and what puts us at risk for breast cancer.
Self-breast exam (SBE): Breasts can be lumpy and bumpy, which is why I recommended doing a self-breast exam every month. The best time to do an exam is five days after your menstrual period or if you don’t have a period, choose the same day every month to do an exam. It's important to know what your breast normally feels like and if there are any changes. Keep in mind that SBE is not a substitute for mammograms. So what are you looking for? Most lumps are not cancer, but there are some changes that you want to look for when doing an exam.
- Lump in or near your breast or armpit
- Changes in size or shape of your breast
- Dimpling, puckering of the skin on your breast
- Nipple that changes position or is inverted
- Skin redness or rash
- Nipple discharge
Risk Factors: Most women are 50 years or older when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. Younger women are at higher risk for breast cancer if they have the following risk factors:
- Genetic mutations for breast cancer called BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Two more first-degree relatives with breast cancer were diagnosed at an early age
- Early-onset of menstrual period (before age 12)
- First full-term pregnancy when you are over 30 years old
- Dense breasts
- Lifestyle: Heavy alcohol consumption, red meat or poor diet, sedentary lifestyle
- Race (Caucasian women are at higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, but Black women are more likely to die due to Breast cancer)
- Personal history of uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer
Know your family history: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, so the likelihood of you knowing someone in your family with breast cancer is high. Approximately 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary. It's important to know what family members had breast cancer and how old they were when they were diagnosed. Women with a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer have nearly twice the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a woman who has no family history.
Get to know your breasts, risk factors and family history so you can take charge of your own health. If you ever have any concerns or questions about your breasts, you should talk to your doctor to be evaluated.
Dr. Jodie horton