Breast health is in your hands

After all the hard work of the organizations that increase awareness of breast cancer, I feel pretty confident you know by now that breast cancer is prevalent (13% of women get it) and that your chances of conquering it are better if you catch it early.

What I worry about is whether you’re performing self breast exams.

Here’s why I worry: The major risk factors for developing breast cancer are having breasts and getting older. By my math, that applies to just about all women. A lot of lumps are showing up in a lot of breasts, and most are found during self breast exams.

Your health care provider may have the information advantage when it comes to recognizing and treating breast cancer, but you know much more about your own breasts than anyone else does. It makes sense that you can more easily identify changes that might indicate a problem.

Not every organization or every health care provider recommends monthly self exams, but I feel strongly that women should do them. The American Cancer Society agrees.

Spending five minutes each month to examine your breasts for lumps or changes can make an enormous difference in your health.

If you’re still menstruating, I recommend that you check your breasts each month as soon as your period is over. If you are menopausal, use the date of your birthday as a reminder. That is, if your birthday is June 14, check your breasts on the 14th of every month.

Here’s a rundown of the steps you take during your monthly self exam. If you find a lump, don’t panic — 90% of lumps are nothing to worry about — but do get checked out by your health care provider.

In addition to your own monthly checks, make sure that you get a clinical breast exam each year. Usually, your health care provider makes a clinical breast exam part of your annual visit, but ask for one if that’s not the case. And you can schedule a free clinical breast exam with me if you don’t have a health care provider, want a second opinion, or have found something unusual that you’d like to have checked out.

Risk increases with

  • Age: A whopping 94% of breast cancer cases show up in women who are 40 or older.
  • Family history: A close relative with breast cancer means you could be at higher risk to develop breast and cancer.
  • Race: More white women than Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or Native American women develop breast cancer.
  • Childbearing: If you don’t have children or have them in your 30s or later, your risk increases.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Using HRT for a number of years can increase your risk.
  • Personal history: Having cancer in one breast increases the likelihood of developing cancer in the other breast.

You can call 338-4-HER for more information. And if it’s time for a mammogram, contact 317-338-9595 to schedule an appointment at any of our breast centers.

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