There’s been a lot of uncertainty around health screenings during Covid-19. However, there’s one thing that remains certain-health maintenance is still important, including annual mammograms. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage you to take ownership of your breast health. Here is some information to help you take control of your health and get to know your breasts.
Get To Know Your Breasts
Adult breasts are made up of 15-20 lobules that produce milk and ducts that carry milk to the nipple, fat that gives the breast its shape, the nipple, and the areola, the darker area around the nipple.
One in eight women (12%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2020, an estimated 270,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, with the average age of diagnosis around 50 years old. Things to look for are a lump in the breast, enlarged lymph nodes under your arm, skin dimpling, and nipple discharge. Breast cancer is slightly more common is white women when compared to Black women. However, Black women tend to have a more aggressive form of breast cancer at diagnosis and have death rates that are 40% higher than white women.
It is recommended that you get a mammogram every 1-2 years starting at 40 years old. If you’ve had an abnormal breast exam, your doctor may also order an ultrasound to look at a specific area in your breast.
It’s important to know your family history. Your family’s medical history may put you at increased risk if they have a history of breast or ovarian cancer. If a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) has a history of breast cancer or has a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, then the screening guidelines will be different. Self-breast exams are recommended every six months, and a mammogram should start ten years before the age of the earliest diagnosis in the family but no earlier than 25 years old.
Everyone has the BRCA (BReast CAncer) 1 and 2 gene. These genes are responsible for preventing you from developing breast and ovarian cancer. However, if this gene is altered or broken then it has a mutation which increases your risk of cancer. One in 400 or 0.25% of the population has the BRAC 1 or 2 gene mutation. 55-65% of women with BRCA 1 mutation and 45% of women with BRCA 2 will develop breast cancer before the age of 70. BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutation also increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. The risk of ovarian cancer is 2% in her lifetime. The risk of ovarian cancer increases to 4045% in women with BRAC 1 and 10-30% in women with BRCA 2 mutation.
It is recommended to do a breast exam once a month starting at age 25. Doing a monthly breast exam helps you to be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts. If you notice a change in your breast like a lump, nipple discharge, or dimpling, notify your doctor for further work-up. The best time to do a self-breast exam is 3-5 days after your period and if you don’t have a period, then do an exam the same day every month.
What other questions do you have around Breast Cancer and getting to know your breasts?
Dr. Jodie horton