Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Early Detection & Breast Health Tips

1. Early Breast Cancer Detection – Experts recommend women get to know their own bodies: report any changes in your breast to your medical provider right away and talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer and when to be screened. Medical experts also recommend:

  • Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year 
  • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of their periodic health exam by a health professional, preferably every three years 
  • Breast self exam: Experts now recommend that women get to know their own bodies and watch for any changes. BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. You should report any changes in your breast health to your doctor right away. 

2. Reduce Your Risk – Here are some suggestions to help reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  • Examine your family history – Your risk is increased if a family member has had breast cancer, especially if a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) is diagnosed before the age of 50. Speak with a nurse, doctor or your medical provider about your breast cancer risk and additional steps you can take to reduce your risk. 
  • Get some exercise– Brisk walking for one hour a day can your reduce risk by more than 15%. The American Cancer Society recommends you engage in at least 45 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. 
  • Minimize radiation exposure – The human breast is sensitive to radiation, especially if exposure occurs at young ages. Girls repeatedly exposed to radiation before the age of 20 are at highest risk for developing breast cancer later in life. 
  • Modify alcohol intake – Regular consumption of one drink a day for women is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. 
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke – Tobacco smoke is a known human carcinogen and is an established risk factor for lung cancer. Exposure to smoking and secondhand smoke should be avoided, particularly during childhood, puberty, pregnancy and when breast feeding. 
  • Avoid exposures to exogenous estrogens 
    • Hormone replacement therapy – Use only if absolutely necessary; use for as short a time as possible, and discuss alternatives with your doctor. 
    • Hormonally active environmental chemicals – Some studies suggest chemicals in our homes, water and environment may play a role in cancer development. 
  • Maintain leanness or reduce weight – The relationship between being overweight and breast cancer risk is one of the best understood to date. It is known that women who gain more than 20 pounds from age 18 to midlife double their risk of breast cancer (postmenopausal) compared to women whose weight remains stable. 

3. Lymphedema – Lymphedema is a chronic, debilitating disorder following cancer treatment that can cause arm swelling and chronic inflammation. There are new advances and recommendations for women diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Newly diagnosed women should ask their doctor for a perometry screen or BIS (bioimpedance spectroscopy) screen before they have breast cancer surgery and at regular follow-up visits. Survivors who have already undergone surgery should ask their doctor if BIS or perometry might be helpful in their ongoing care. 
  • Exercise and weight training have been shown to help reduce the risk of lymphedema and to reduce the severity of the disorder in already affected patients. Women should discuss exercise and weight-lifting regimens with their doctor or a well-trained or certified lymphedema therapist. 

4. Nutrition – Nutrition plays an important role in your health.

5. Know Your Resources –Don't overlook your own breast health. Survival rates increase dramatically in women who've been diagnosed with breast cancer early. If you are living in a low-income household, or are underinsured or uninsured, there are many resources available, regardless of your ability to pay, that can help you seek out the proper breast care:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers an online search tool for women to seek out free and low-cost screenings across the country. 
  • For information on breast cancer and tools to help you seek out medical care, visit the American Cancer Society's website at www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/index

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