October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Thanks to the successful efforts of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
and its hundreds of media, non-profit and corporate partners, nearly everyone
is aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But what are you going
to DO with that awareness? I am still amazed by how many women I meet over
age 35 who have never had a mammogram and even more amazed by the number of
women I meet who haven't even had a clinical breast exam in over 3 years. Being
aware of breast cancer is not enough: it is time to act upon that awareness.
So what do you need to do for optimum breast health? In general, women over
age 18 should perform a monthly breast self exam, ideally, 5 to 10 days after
the last day of their menstrual period. Most women have some benign lumps;
getting used to the normal terrain of your breasts will help you identify any
abnormalities later on. A complete breast self-exam includes applying gentle
pressure to the nipples to evaluate any nipple discharge. While this is fairly
common, any abnormalities should be discussed with your physician.
All women should have a baseline mammogram at age 35. Why? So that in the
future, you have your own personal version of a "normal" mammogram to serve
as a basis for comparison for any possible changes. While your physician's
recommendations may vary regarding when you need to repeat your mammogram based
upon your physical exam, personal and family medical history, most physicians
recommend a second mammogram at age 40, followed by repeat mammograms every
two years until age 50, after which annual mammograms are recommended.
Are there any other interventions you can practice in order to reduce your risk
of breast cancer? The most supported recommendation is not to smoke: don't
start and if you already do, then stop. Following a low-fat diet has been suggested
to reduce the risk of breast cancer as has maintaining a normal weight. In
menopausal women, taking an estrogen plus progesterone combination regimen of
hormone therapy was shown to slightly increase the risk of invasive breast cancer
after 5 years. The good news for menopausal women is that regular aerobic
exercise has recently been shown to potentially reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Created: 10/1/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.