Breast health is a key aspect of a comprehensive women’s health plan. Safeguarding the well-being of your breasts can play a large role in keeping you healthy throughout your lifetime.
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we are devoted to helping women lead long, healthy lives. Read more about how to keep your breasts healthy, how to screen for breast cancer, and how we can help if breast cancer is detected.
You may feel a bit awkward about discussing breast health with your medical provider, but staying on top of this health measure is important, as one in eight women in the United States will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. You can be proactive about your breast health, and prevent breast cancer, by taking the following steps.
Monitor Your Breasts
A large part of staying on top of your breast health is being familiar with your own anatomy. Medical providers no longer recommend performing a formal monthly breast self-exam, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid keeping track of any changes.
The following changes in your breasts should prompt a conversation with or a visit to your medical provider:
- Skin changes, such as redness of the skin, thickening, dimpling, or peeling
- Nipple changes, such as nipple discharge, nipple inversion, or pain
- Painful lumps or bumps, particularly if they feel very hard or firm
- Pain in your armpits
You can read more about what to do if you find a breast lump by visiting this page from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Know Your Family History
In order to be your best possible health advocate, it is important to keep track of your family’s health history, including your family’s specific breast health history. If you have had members of your family, particularly first-degree relatives like a mother or sister, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure to discuss this with your medical provider.
It is especially important to be vigilant about monitoring your breast health if there are a large number of women in your family who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, if the diagnoses have been made at a young age, or if a male in your family has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. Certain family history patterns confer a greater chance of having a gene mutation that leads to breast cancer, such as BRCA1.
Optimize Your Breast Health
By adopting certain lifestyle measures, you can enhance your breast health and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. These preventive measures include:
- Decreasing your alcohol intake, making sure to limit yourself to a single drink a day
- Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week
- Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9
- Using oral contraceptive pills with caution, as this can slightly increase your risk of breast cancer
- Using postmenopausal hormonal therapy with caution, as this has also been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer
- Breastfeeding, if you have the ability to do so
Stay Up to Date With Routine Medical Care
You can take care of your breast health by making sure that you are keeping up to date with all of your general routine healthcare. By having an established primary care provider, you can make sure that you are being screened for other medical conditions that could be related to breast cancer. Additionally, you can guarantee that there is someone who can also examine your breasts promptly if you notice any changes.
Changes in your breasts do not always indicate breast cancer. There are many reasons why your breast tissue may change, particularly if you are younger, and most of these are benign.
Get Appropriate Screenings
Once you have reached your 40th birthday, it is important to begin discussing breast screening with your medical provider. Women between the ages of 40 and 44 have the option of getting a mammogram every year, and women ages 45 to 54 should are advised to get an annual mammogram, according to the American Cancer Society. Women ages 55 and older can continue with annual mammograms or switch to a once every two-year schedule. This can continue until age 74 or even later.
A mammogram is a specific type of imaging study that uses x-rays to specifically evaluate the fatty tissue of the breasts. Mammograms become more accurate as women age and the composition of their breast tissue changes, which is why younger women are not advised to get annual screenings unless they have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The dose of radiation used to obtain a mammogram is very low. Mammograms can be slightly uncomfortable, but they are not painful. Lompoc Valley Medical Center offers a variety of mammogram services.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer occurs when abnormal breast cells begin to grow uncontrollably. It can happen to anyone, female or male. However, women are more likely to get breast cancer than men. In fact, in the United States, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women after skin cancer.
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