We’re nearing the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a thirty-one day period where pink predominates on screens, stores, and sports. In October, it’s hard not to think about your breast health, and finding ways to be involved in breast cancer awareness is easy. Events, products, fundraisers, and reminders about breast health proliferate all month long. But this awareness shouldn’t limited to October; after all, your breasts are here year-round. Follow these four strategies to keep your breasts healthy and promote awareness throughout the year.
There is much that’s unknown about breast cancer causes. Why do some women recover, and others not? And for that matter, why do some women get the disease, while others do not? There’s much we don’t know about risk factors.
And many of the risk factors we do know about, such as family history, how old you were when you got your first period, or race, are not things that we can influence. But some factors are under our control, so educating yourself on the causes is extremely important; for instance, a survey of women done by Health magazine found that few women were aware that being overweight may increase risk of breast cancer by as much as forty percent, a much higher influencing factor than family history.
Make an effort to follow the latest news and recommendations from doctors and reputable health organizations. And reminder: when searching for health information on the internet, always consider the source. Not all websites are created equally; the Mayo Clinic, governmental sources, and known organizations such as the American Cancer Society, are the best sources for trustworthy information. Articles posted on friends’ Facebook walls may be trustworthy, or may be bunk, so always investigate the source.
The statistics on breast cancer are grim: according to the American Cancer Society, if a woman gets cancer, there is a thirty percent chance that it’ll be breast cancer. Only skin cancer has a higher diagnosis rate. With these odds, you likely know someone who’s had breast cancer, or who is currently in treatment.
Donating money — or, doing a race or walk to raise money — is easier to do during October, when there are so many reminders to donate. But try to keep the disease in mind every month, and be social in your donations, so that you remind your friend group to donate as well.
Be Aware of Your Breasts
In recent years, recommendations about breast cancer detection have shifted greatly. Where monthly breast self-exams were formerly the prevailing guidance, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends against breast self-exams, which studies indicate are ineffective, anxiety inducing, and result in unnecessary biopsies.
Instead of a monthly breast self-exam, doctors and medical awareness groups recommend that women practice breast self-awareness. But what is breast cancer self-awareness? Self-awareness can be summarized in four steps:
- Know your family history for breast cancer;
- Have a conversation with your doctor about which tests you should have;
- Have a sense of what’s normal with your breasts; and
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
This more holistic approach is a way to have a year-round awareness of your health in general, and specifically know what to mention during appointments with doctors. Rather than a formal monthly self-exam, simply touch your breasts in the shower and as you’re getting ready for bed occasionally, so you have a sense of what’s normal, and what’s different than usual.
Stay on Top of Doctor’s Appointments
Whether it’s your annual exam or your mammogram, go to doctor’s appointments regularly. Take time in each appointment to discuss any concerns and questions you have, and ask your doctor if your history indicates that you should be having a mammogram, and how frequently. Keeping on top of these day-to-day appointments is the best way to ensure early detection.