Breast health awareness is a vital part of how you stay healthy. Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 U.S. women, a rate higher than any other cancer except lung cancer. Your breasts may also be affected by benign breast changes such as cysts or intraductal papillomas (wart-like growths near the nipples).
Most women experience some form of breast changes, and it's important to know your normal breasts and keep an eye on any changes and contact your health care provider.
Here are some tips to help you stay on top of your breast health and be aware of things that may put it at risk.
Regular self-exams increase your familiarity with your breasts and allow you to spot changes. It's important to do self-exams at the same stage of your menstrual cycle as some changes through your cycle are normal. Breast swelling and pain right before you start your period is fairly common.
There is some question as to whether self-exams are valuable, but most doctors continue to recommend them. Be aware that most of the time if you do find a change it is not cancer. It is far more likely that it is something hormone-related. You should only do self-exams once a month. Doing them too often can cause galactorrhea...that is to say it can stimulate your breasts to produce milk.
Annual mammograms are recommended for most women starting at age 40, and strongly recommended at age 45. They are particularly important if a past mammogram shows dense breast tissue, which increases risk and makes it harder for the radiologist to see tumors (making more frequent screening more important).
Women 55 and older can drop to a schedule of every other year unless they have risk factors, but you should continue to get mammograms as long as you are in good health.
For women with a strong family history or a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, mammogram screening should start at the age of 30, and MRI screening is also recommended.
There are some factors which can increase your chances of developing breast cancer, which include:
Being aware of these various risk factors is important as it can help you determine whether you should seek extra screening such as a breast MRI.
The CDC recommends that women take the following precautions to reduce their risk of breast cancer:
Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy do increase your risk of breast cancer; however oral contraceptives lower your risk of ovarian cancer. If you are on birth control, talk to your doctor and consider annual mammograms even if you are otherwise at low risk.
If you’d like to learn more about breast health or want to schedule a consultation, contact Women and Infants Hospital today for the highest quality care.
Copyright © 2021 Care New England Health System