October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to become educated about one of the most common cancer diagnoses in women in the United States. One of the best ways to defeat breast cancer is early detection, so it is important to remain educated about the early warning signs.
Signs and symptoms for breast cancer can appear in many different ways. While it’s true that one of the most common symptoms is a lump or thickening in the breast that feels different from the surrounding tissue, there are other signs that indicate you may have breast cancer. These signs may include bloody discharge from the nipple, changes in size or shape of a breast, inverted nipples, peeling or flaking of the nipple, or redness or pitting of the skin over your breast.
If you have seen any changes or found a lump in your breast and are concerned, you should schedule an appointment to talk with your doctor.
In addition, there are some factors associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, including: (1) being female; women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men (but men can develop it). (2) Your age; the risk increases for those women who are 55 years or older. (3) Your weight; obesity increases your risk of developing breast cancer because fat tissues produce estrogen that can help advance certain cancer cells.
But it is important to remember that having one or more of these factors does not mean you will automatically develop breast cancer. Many people who develop breast cancer do not have any of these risk factors which is why it behooves any person to make changes to their daily life that may minimize your chances of getting breast cancer. These healthy lifestyle habits include exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol.
In addition to changing your daily routine, you can also take a more proactive approach to self-examinations and screenings:
Breast self-examination – Breast self-examinations require you to check your breast to detect any lumps or changes. You should do a self-examination the same day every month in order to remain consistent. Self-examinations are done by lying down on the floor or a bed, taking your three middle fingers and moving them in small coin-sized circles around your breasts. Applying light, medium, and hard pressure throughout the examination will help you check the various tissue levels of your breast.
Mammograms – A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast, and it is meant to check for tumors in the breast that might not be detected through self-examination. Ask your doctor what age you should begin getting a mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society, women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years or can continue yearly screening.
This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician for any medical issues. The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is committed to bringing trusted and quality home care to Indian River and Brevard County patients. For more information about VNA services, call 772-567-5551 in Indian River County or 321-752-7550 in Brevard County, or visit www.vnatc.com.