Tap into Breast Self-Awareness

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, it’s prime time to talk about early detection and raise valuable awareness. Consider these statistics:

  • Breast Cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of death from cancer in American women (the first being lung cancer)
  • 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime
    As dismal as these facts sound, the good news is that deaths from breast cancer can, and have been, reduced through screening and early detection. In fact, breast-related deaths have been steadily decreasing since 1990, reflecting both earlier detection and improved treatment options.

For early detection, The American Cancer Society, National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40. Women aged 20-39 years should have breast exams performed by a physician in clinic every one to three years and annually for women older than age 40. Breast self-awareness is also recommended.

This concept of breast self-awareness has largely replaced the breast self-exam. Rather than looking for abnormalities in our breasts during a self breast exam, breast self-awareness focuses on being familiar with the normal consistency of your breasts and underlying tissue, so you’re aware of any abnormal lumps or other changes.

Most women have lumps or changes in their breasts that fluctuate during their menstrual cycles and this is normal. If you have breast implants, you may want to ask your doctor to help identify the edges of the implants. A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding also can perform regular breast self-exams in order to establish her “new normal.”
Changes to look for and talk to your doctor about include:

  • Dimples, puckers, ridges or bulges of skin on the breast
  • A nipple that turns in rather than sticks out
  • Skin that itches, or has scales, sores or rashes
  • Discharge from the nipple, other than breast milk
  • Pain, redness, swelling or warmth
  • Any change in the color, shape, size or texture of the breast

The importance of breast self-awareness as a tool for women is highlighted by the fact that about 50% of breast cancer cases in women older than 50 years old, and more than 70% of breast cancer cases in women younger than 50 years old, are detected by women themselves. In addition to knowing your own body, make sure to also get an annual mammogram.

Make time for a mammogram at the Brookwood Baptist Medical Center Mammothon on Thursday, October 16 and Saturday, October 18, 2014. We’re adding extra hours to our week to make getting your annual mammogram a little easier. Reservations are encouraged, so call 205.802.6900 today.

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