Today I Learned...
s we age, our bodies change. And while these changes can be exciting and fulfilling, they can also be scary. For women, breast cancer is one of the most frightening diseases they face as they age.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States (Source: CDC). The median age of a breast cancer diagnosis is 62 and nearly 20 percent of women diagnosed are over the age of 75, according to the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registry (Source: BCRF). Older women are more at risk than younger women of developing breast cancer. While this fact is well-known, many older women don't take the necessary steps to prevent the disease.
To honor Breast Cancer Awareness month, here are some tips that will help you reduce your risk of developing breast cancer:
Breast cancer is a devastating disease, and it's important to take steps toward prevention. One key way to reduce your risk is by performing monthly breast self-exams.
These exams can detect changes in your breasts that might be caused by cancer, but could also be due to benign conditions. If you find something unusual during your breast self-exam, it's important to make an appointment with a health care provider right away so they can determine if you need further testing or treatment.
In addition to monthly self-exams, best sure to get a clinical breast exam from your doctor every year, even if you don't have symptoms.
Know how to properly perform monthly breast self-exam.
Regularly examining your own breasts for lumps or other abnormalities can help you find breast cancer earlier when treatment is most likely to be successful.
Here’s how to complete a monthly breast self-exam:
- Perform monthly breast self-exams by standing in front of a mirror and looking at all areas of your breasts, including underneath the nipple and around it.
- Use both hands to feel each breast thoroughly in circular motions starting from the outside toward the middle and then back out again.
- Check for any unusual lumps, thickening or hard areas that don't move when pressed against them.
Learn everything you need to know about breast cancer self-exams here.
Other steps to help lower your risk include:
- Keep a journal of any changes in your breasts and see a doctor if you have questions or concerns about what's been written down on previous dates.
- Get tested for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (if you're at high risk).
- Know where to find information about other possible genetic factors that could increase cancer risk.
- Know which factors may make it more likely for women like you to get breast cancer.
- Don't smoke. Smoking is a risk factor for breast cancer, and it can increase the risk of metastasis (when cancer spreads from one part of the body to another). It also affects the immune system, which may reduce a woman's ability to fight off tumors.
- Get moving. Regular physical activity can help manage weight, which in turn reduces breast cancer risk.
As women continue to live longer and more active lives, it becomes increasingly important for them to pay attention to breast cancer risks.
By learning about breast cancer screenings, diet, physical activity, and personal risk factors, women can arm themselves with the knowledge they need to prevent this devastating disease.