It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Pink is for Prevention. Prevention of breast cancer can occur with a few actions.
- Don’t smoke tobacco products
- Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum (Less than one drink per day is ideal)
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly: 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of intense exercise
- Eat a plant-based diet
- Get genetic testing if your family history supports it
What is a plant-based diet, you may ask? Well, I borrowed this definition from my husband’s blog, The Doc’s Kitchen:
“Whole Plant-based Diet Food- this refers to foods that come from plants that are minimally processed and manipulated…”https://thedocskitchen.com/dont-make-the-mistake-of-having-an-unhealthy-vegetarian-diet/
In addition to prevention, there are ways to reduce your chances or missing an early breast cancer diagnosis. If you catch breast cancer early, as in stage 0 or stage 1, 5-year relative survival rate is 100%.
Here are few brief tips to catch breast cancer in early stages.
1. If you feel a lump, don’t wait too long to follow it up
I have had so many patients in my career who have found their own lumps. If are still having menstrual cycles and feel a lump just before your period, I recommend waiting until the period has left to see if it is still there. If it is, see your doc. Most lumps will not be cancer, but it’s worth following up to make sure everything is okay.
The hallmarks of a concerning lump are:
- It usually doesn’t move well. “Frozen Pea” is that classic description. It is a lump that feels frozen or scarred down.
- It usually does NOT hurt. Painful lumps could be related to hormonal breast gland changes. Caffeine can also make breast tender. Oh, and pregnancy too.
Regardless of it’s characteristics, if a lump doesn’t go a way on it’s own, a mammogram or ultrasound is probably ideal. Also check your insurance to see if you have a preferred imaging location. No one wants a big bill for prevention and early detection if they can avoid it.
2. Get a mammogram, and consider a 3D mammogram if your breasts are dense
A mammogram will detect signs of breast cancer before a lump can be felt. If you have dense breasts, a 3D mammogram with or without ultrasound will can see through the tissues even better.
When should you start getting mammograms?
According to ACOG, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
For women at average risk of breast cancer, screening mammography is recommended every 1–2 years beginning at age 40 years. If you have not started screening in your 40s, you should start having mammography no later than age 50 years. Screening should continue until at least age 75 years.https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/gynecologic-problems/mammography-and-other-screening-tests-for-breast-problems
3. Get your mammogram results and follow up
No news is NOT good news. A study conducted in South Carolina in 2000 noted that African American women were 29% more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. The same study reported that African American women were 12% less likely to complete follow up imaging. Some factors that appeared to impact the chances of following up were income and the number of prior procedures.
My take home point from that study was that even if you have had abnormal testing in the past, don’t let that stop you from getting follow up imaging THIS time. Get your results.
If you don’t have insurance…
Check with your local academic hospital or medical center. Many have programs that offer free mammogram and breast cancer screening to the uninsured or underinsured.
If you want to learn more about whether or not you may be a candidate for genetic testing, read an article that I wrote for Bright Pink. Click Here to read the article on Bright Pink and take a brief quiz.
Before you go, don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to always receive fun and informative health information. Also enjoy last years Breast Cancer Awareness music video and stay tuned for this years, loading!