The American Cancer Society recently announced American women have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Risks increase if there has been a family history of breast cancer, especially if the diagnosis was made before age 50. Breast health isn’t a concern for many women until they find abnormalities like breast pain, nipple discharge, or lumps. It’s important to understand what’s normal for your body, screening guidelines, and when to consult with a doctor.
Self-breast exams, physical exams performed by your doctor, and imaging such as mammography can be lifesaving. Breast cancer is treated more successfully if it’s detected early. I advise my patients to make self-breast exams a part of their self-care routine. The more you examine your breast tissue, the more you’ll learn about it and the easier it will be to identify abnormals. I recommend self-breast exams at least once a month. Several days after your period is ideal, as the breast tissue is likely to change before and during menses. If you no longer have your period, choose a day that’s easy to remember.
Mammograms & Other Breast Imaging
For women with a strong family history, it’s recommended to start screening mammograms between ages 35-40 or earlier if abnormalities or symptoms are present. Otherwise, women ages 40 to 44 can choose to begin screening once per year. Women aged 45-54 should absolutely schedule a mammogram every year. Women 55+ with a history of normal mammograms and no family history can choose to screen every two years or continue with yearly screening. Ultimately, every woman after age 45 should start screening once yearly.
In addition to mammograms, there are several cutting-edge imaging options to screen for breast cancer: MRIs, contrast-enhanced mammograms, whole-breast ultrasounds, and thermograms. Consult with your doctor on which type of imaging is best for you.
It’s important to view breast health through a holistic lens. Consider implementing these lifestyle habits; they can help prevent chronic disease and allow you to take the very best care of yourself.=:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Prioritize sleep
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid smoking
- Get yearly physicals and blood work with your doctor
If you have concerns regarding your breasts and cancer risk, make sure to address your concerns with your doctor. Don’t wait. Call 480-588-6856 for a free 10-minute meet and greet with a Naturopathic doctor at Living Wellness Medical Center.