Hooter Health: Breast awareness for cancer prevention
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and as such I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss breast health as simply as possible! 1 in 8 women will have the diagnosis of breast cancer in their life, which means you likely know someone who has been affected by it. Let’s take our health into our own hands; there is so much power in knowledge especially when it comes to our own bodies!
How We Examine
1. The Self-Exam: The latest research has actually found that the monthly self-exam does not reduce breast cancer mortality. Essentially, don't focus too much on technique and frequency, rather get to know your breasts and what is 'normal' for you! Click here if you are interested in more info on self-exams!
2. The Clinical Breast Exam: This is a thorough manual exam done about once a year by your primary healthcare provider (MD/ND).
3. The Mammogram: There is conflicting research on when to begin, however the latest findings reveal having a mammogram every 2 years between the ages of 50 and 74 can detect breast cancer earlier than a breast exam alone. Prior to 50, the breast tissue is more dense, so the mammogram will be less accurate.
Not All Lumps Are Created Equal
Lumps and bumps that come and go from month to month or change in size throughout months can be a sign of fibrocystic breasts. This is tissue in the breasts affected by hormones (mainly estrogen), which is why they can change throughout a woman’s cycle. These tend to be tender, rubbery and moveable. Fibrocystic breasts affect up to 60% of women, are not cancerous or dangerous but can definitely be scary if you come across it. Breasts are the least ‘lumpy’ 7-10 days after your period, which is the best time to do a self-exam.
Lumps that are hard, like a pebble, aren’t moveable and typically aren’t tender are ones that are more likely to be cause for concern.
Regardless of what you come across, if there is something that doesn’t feel right to you, get it checked out by a medical professional!
What Else Should I Be Looking For?
Skin changes: Any dimpling, swelling or scaling of the skin on the breast or changes in symmetry should be investigated. Looking in a mirror and moving your arms out to the side and above your head so that the breast tissue also moves best identifies dimpling.
Nipple changes: Any discharge from the nipple (not related to breastfeeding) should be checked, as well as swelling or inversion of the nipple.
Pain: Typically, breast tenderness/soreness is not a sign of breast cancer, rather it happens due to hormonal fluctuations (yay…). Breast pain alongside new symptoms like nipple discharge or swelling should be investigated.
What’s really most important – for both men and women – is that you become familiar with your body so you know when something changes!
If you are someone who experiences monthly fluctuations in breast tenderness and fibrocystic breasts, a Naturopathic Doctor can help! Talk to your ND about reducing your modifiable risk factors for cancer, too.
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
Disclaimer: The authors of the blogs at Whole and Holistic are still awaiting results from licensing exams and are not licensed, practicing NDs.