Be Your Own Breast Friend

October 2, 2017

A healthy lifestyle and early detection are a great first line of defense in the fight against breast cancer

By Dr. Danish Siddiqui, Watertown Regional Medical Center-Center for Women’s Health

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. In fact, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. And with October designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this is a great time to bring attention to this disease. We want all of the women in our community to understand their risk, be alert to the signs and symptoms and recognize the crucial role that healthy lifestyles and early detection play in fighting breast cancer.

What are the risk factors?
Among the risk factors for breast cancer, aging is probably the largest. Most breast cancers are found in women age 50 and up. Other risk factors include having a family history of breast cancer, a lack of physical activity and excess weight or obesity after menopause, among others. And while most breast cancer is found in older women, it’s important to remember that most women have some risk factors, including younger women. Women under 45 account for about 11 percent of all new U.S. cases of the disease.

What are the symptoms?
Breast cancer symptoms can come in different forms, while some women with breast cancer have no signs or symptoms. Warning signs can include: a new lump in the breast or armpit, thickening or swelling of part of the breast, breast skin irritation, breast pain and discharge other than breast milk. If any signs or symptoms are present, you should see your doctor right away.

What can I do?
The great news is that there are things you can do to help reduce your risk for breast cancer and fight it through early detection. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, limited alcohol intake and avoiding exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer are all great ways to help not only lower your risk, but increase your chance at survival if cancer occurs.

Breast cancer screenings are an excellent first line of defense in the fight against breast cancer. Early detection means easier treatment. The best way to detect breast cancer is with a mammogram at your doctor’s office. Clinical breast exams and self-exams are also good secondary methods for identifying warning signs like lumps or breast pain. You should talk with your doctor about the best methods for breast cancer screenings and how often you should be tested.

Breast cancer is a very real risk for women, but reducing your risk through a healthy lifestyle and early detection through regular screenings can equip you in the fight against it.

For more information on breast cancer risks, symptoms and screening methods, visit https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/. If you have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer or wish to speak with a doctor about the best screening methods for you, call the Center for Women’s Health and we’ll get you connected to the right care.