October is breast cancer awareness month, so what better time than to share some important information with you?!According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009 (the most recent year numbers are available)—211,731 women and 2,001 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,676 women and 400 men in the United States died from breast cancer.
All men and women are vulnerable to breast cancer, but some are more at risk than others. Risk factors include:
- A family history of breast cancer
- Menstruation before the age of 12
- Menopause after age 55
- Inherited gene mutations (most commonly BRCA1 and BRCA2)
- Pregnancy with first child after the age of 35
- Being overweight or obese
Don’t panic! Having certain risk factors doesn’t make cancer inevitable, and research has found that eating smarter can make a difference. Evidence suggests foods high in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can protect against some cancers:
- Cruciferous and dark, leafy green vegetables: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale
- Fruits: citrus, berries, cherries
- Whole-grains: oats, barley, bulgur, whole-grain pastas, breads, cereals, crackers
- Legumes: dried beans and peas, lentils
Because weight is closely connected with breast cancer, engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce your risk and allow you to maintain a healthy weight. Try adding simple exercises to your work day like hand-delivering a message or going for a walk during lunch. For optimal health, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
When breast cancer starts out, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. As it grows, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels. Symptoms may include—
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Johns Hopkins Medical center states, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.
How should a breast self-exam be performed?
1) In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2) In Front of a Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3) Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Additionally, if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every 2-3 years. If you are 40 to 49 years old with a high risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.
For more information, here are some great websites: