For the last 29 years, October has been recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness month. But beyond wearing pink and donating to the cause, the best thing to do is keep yourself protected by reducing your risk and using self exams for early detection.
Breast cancer is likely to be diagnosed in women. Race and age also contribute to risk, as most affected women tend to be white and over the age of 55. While these factors are unavoidable, there are ways to decrease your risk through environmental factors. These things include eating a healthy diet, maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight, being (or becoming) a non smoker, and reducing your intake of alcohol. But even if you are adhering to all these things, they do not replace self checks and doctors appointments, as 60-70% of breast cancer patients do not have any connection to environmental risk factors.
The easiest form of early detection is a self check breast exam. 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are discovered through self exams. It is recommended that women perform these exams once a month. There are three recommended ways to perform a breast exam: in the shower, in front of a mirror, and laying down. Starting from the outside of the breast and moving toward the center, use the pads of your fingers to inspect the breast and armpit area for changes and lumps. When performing the check in a mirror, also physically look at your breasts for any changes.
If you do find a lump, the best course of action is to make an appointment with your doctor and schedule a mammogram. But stay calm, as 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.
Be safe, be well, be smart. Early detection could save your life.