Breast Health 101

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When it comes to breast health, you hold the power.

In 2013 alone, the American Cancer Society estimates 232,340 women, including 4,540 in Indiana alone, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Depending on your age, you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Starting in your 20s, you should start breast self-exams (BSEs) on a monthly basis. These exams will help you notice any changes in the tissue of your breasts and nipples. When examining your breasts, move your fingers in a circular motion over the whole breast and armpit area. For a guide to performing BSEs, click here.

Symptoms such as redness, burning, dimpling or puckering of the skin, nipple discharge, or lumps should be discussed with your physician.

Once you enter your 30s, you should also have a clinical breast exam annually, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The physician will examine your breasts, looking for any physical changes in the outward appearance of your breasts, and feel for any lumps. If you’re at higher risk for breast cancer, your physician may recommend you go ahead and have a baseline mammogram in your mid-30s.

An Honest Conversation Could Save Your Life

Sitting down with your primary care provider or gynecologist should be your first step to assess if extra tests are needed. Talk openly about your family history of breast cancer—if your mother, aunt or sister has had the condition, it increases your own personal risk. Special screenings, such as breast magnetic resonance imaging, breast ultrasound or earlier mammograms, might be needed.

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