October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ll be posting all month about not only the disease and what we ALL can do to raise awareness, but the amazing companies that do their part in raising awareness as well.
image source: nationalbreastcancer.org
What IS Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease where cancer cells grow in the tissues of the breast. The cancerous cells can attack neighboring tissues, turning them into cancer as well. With early breast cancer screening and treatment, most women do continue to live their normal lives as they once did.
There are some pretty scary facts surrounding breast cancer and the impact it has on women’s lives. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and the second leading cause of death. 200,000 American Women are diagnosed yearly
That IS why getting yearly mammograms is super important. It might be scary to think about the procedure. Although nothing would compare to actually being diagnosed and knowing you could’ve, would’ve, should’ve gotten that appointment made when it was in the early stages.
Causes & Factors
The causes of breast cancer isn’t known. There are risk factors, but don’t let those risk factors scare you. Just because someone in your family has been diagnosed with it, doesn’t necessarily mean that YOU will get it. It is better to be safe than sorry though, women over 40 need to schedule an appointment every year to get a mammogram.
Signs, Symptoms & Self Breast Exams
Image Source: National Breast Cancer
You need to know how to do a self breast exam, so that you can detect any new formations or lumps in the tissues of your breasts. There is more than one way to do a self breast exam, but you DO need to do it regularly (at least once a month). Being able to feel new masses inside the tissues will help you know beforehand that you should definitely get into your doctor ASAP to have it checked out.
What you should be looking for are hard masses inside the tissue as you press firmly all the way around your breast. ANY new lump found should be checked because breast cancer can be lumps with or without pain.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Mammograms at 40 or 50?
Image Source: American Cancer Society
It might be confusing to know how often to make an appointment and where to start. Should you get it once a year, every two years? Should you start when you’re 40 or wait until you hit 50? This is a very heated topic within the medical community, and women tend to get caught in the net of what they should do. I am here to help you figure this out and get the help that you need.
Most doctors will recommend to you that you start at the age of 40 and schedule them yearly, but there are those that said to wait to you are 50 and schedule them every other year. I read through continuous research about the debates on each side, and which side was better for women.
Really the age range of the 40-50 debate started over the actual process that was used to determine the range. It was ALWAYS to start at age 40 until recently, when new studies were done. Instead of using real-life clinical trials, a computer was used to calculate these studies on how many women 40-49 who were diagnosed and how successful they were at catching and treating it. All the research (done by different sources) were drastically different. So, that’s why you should start early.
The American Cancer Society DOES NOT endorse these claims at ALL. Their research clearly shows that the percentage of women 40+ years old who report having had a mammogram within the past 2 years has stabilized around 67% who were diagnosed. So YES please start making mammogram appointments at 40. It could mean a longer, meaningful life without chemo treatments, tons of doctor appointments, and stress.
When & Where: Walking You Through Your Mammogram Appointment
You need to see your regular doctor first who will then refer you to a clinic who specializes in Mammograms. Most doctors offices don’t have the equipment necessary to do a mammogram, so you’ll need to be referred. Your doctor will make your appointment or give you a referral card, so you don’t need to stress about making your own appointment or WHERE to make it.
Mammogram before & after tips:
If you haven’t hit menopause yet, you should schedule your appointment during the first week of your menstrual cycle so your breasts aren’t so tender and sore.
On the day of the appointment make sure not to wear anything such as lotion or deodorant anywhere near your underarms or breasts.
Wear something that has a top AND bottom to your appointment such as jeans and a t-shirt. Avoid dresses or one piece outfits because you will be asked to take off your top to get the mammogram done.
A mammogram is a low x-ray procedure taken while your breasts are compressed between two pieces of plastic. It can be a little painful because of the plastic pieces, but please remember it only takes about 10 minutes. Just breath, think good thoughts, and know that this IS vital to your health.
Your results will be mailed to you and your doctor within 5-7 days, so it’s a pretty quick turn around. Just think about that while you’re getting it done.