Believe it or not, October is here! That means that it is officially Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer among American women aside from skin cancer according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Knowing the symptoms of breast cancer is a critical step to seeking early treatment. Today we’ll discuss the symptoms you should watch out for and some preventative measures that you can easily add into your everyday routine.
Signs and Symptoms
It is important to remember that breast cancer symptoms vary from person to person and in some cases, there are no symptoms at all. A common list of symptoms is shown below. These symptoms were all shared by the CDC.
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
Pain in any area of the breast.
Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).
A new lump in the breast or underarm.
Overall, it is important to be aware of your body and notify your doctor if you have any change or symptom that worries you.
The good news is, there are some steps you can take to prevent breast cancer. It is important to note that some of the factors including aging and your family history cannot be changed. You should focus on living a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight to lower your risk. Not only will a healthy lifestyle help you lower your risk of cancer, but it will also help your chances of surviving if cancer does develop.
Additionally, you can avoid drinking alcohol or limit your intake to one drink a day, according to the CDC. You should also be aware of your family history and the risks associated with medications you may be currently taking. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you should talk to your doctor about specific steps you can take to lower your risk. If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives, you should discuss these risks with your doctor.
Another way to be proactive when it comes to breast cancer is to get a breast cancer screening. The United States Preventative Service Task Force recommends women ages 50-74 years old at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. If you are under the age of 50, you should talk to your doctor about the risks associated with mammograms before the age of 50.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and is the best way to detect breast cancer early. Staying consistent with your mammogram schedule recommended by your doctor can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. Other screening measures include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for women who are at high risk for breast cancer. Other screenings include a clinical breast exam where a doctor or nurse feels for lumps or changes and a self-exam which would help you notice any changes, pain, or lumps that may be concerning. Always discuss any of these concerns with your doctor since early detection is key!