Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and in 2012, about 40,000 women will die of it. A whopping one in eight women develops breast cancer each year. And although we are making great strides in diagnosis, treatment, and life expectancy for women who do get breast cancer, the most important factor in reducing our risk is paying attention to our bodies. So let’s get to it, moms. You need to know your breasts.
I need to write this to you because if you are a conscientious, busy, loving mom, chances are excellent that you are ignoring your health. I know you. You make sure that the kids get regular check-ups at the dentist and immunizations on schedule from the pediatrician, but what about you? When was the last time you had a tetanus shot? See what I mean. So please, don’t ignore this post! Keep reading. Your kids will thank you.
Breast Self Exams Are Extremely Important
The most important thing to know about breast cancer is that the earlier you find it, the better your prognosis is. Translation: do your breast exams. I teach my 17- and 18-year-old patients how to examine their breasts so that they become familiar with their own breast tissue and will get in the habit of doing the exams. Many women stop doing exams because they say they can’t distinguish normal tissue from abnormal. For many of us, breast tissue feels lumpy and bumpy. That’s normal. The most important thing you can do is get to know the feel of your tissue really well. Over time, you will. What you are feeling for in the tissue is something that feels like a small b-b. Also, you need to feel for lumps that go up and down or ones that feel new. If you have any question, go to your internist or OB/GYN and ask him or her to examine your breasts.
Get in the habit of doing exams once per month when you get your periods. You can do them in the shower or lying down in bed. If your doctor hasn’t shown you how to do them, ask. Pretend that your breast is a wheel. Using the pads on your fingertips, start rolling your fingers on the outside of your breasts and go around the outside. Gradually move in toward the center of your breast and end near the nipple. This is easiest if you place the arm on the side of the breast you are examining, above your head and feel with the opposite hand.
Besides doing monthly exams, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends getting a yearly mammogram starting at age 40. If you worry easily (like I do), have breast cancer in a first degree relative, or feel anything at all, go to your doctor. He or she can order a mammogram or breast ultrasound earlier. Many mothers worry about the radiation exposure, but don’t. Diagnosing breast cancer is far more important than a very, very small risk from radiation.
Breast Cancer Myths
I’m sure you’ve heard a few (if not all of these) before. But they simply aren’t true.
- Antiperspirants cause breast cancer—false.
- If you have a relative with breast cancer, you’re much more likely to get it—false (most women who get breast cancer don’t have a family history).
- Men don’t get breast cancer—false.
- If you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, you’ll get breast cancer—false.
I know you’re busy, but do your breast exams and learn about breast cancer prevention for you because you are worth it!
On November 1, I’ll be giving away a special prize package for mom’s mind, body, and soul. When you leave a comment on any post with the “Strong Mothers, Strong Families” badge, you’ll be entered to win this prize, featuring Meg Meeker books, Vicks Behind the Ear Thermometer, Cookbooks from $5 Dinners.com by Erin Chase, a six-month lunch and dinner subscription to Emeals.com, an envelope system and set of kids’ books from DaveRamsey.com, books and CDs from Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, Tell Your Time from Amy Lynn Andrews, and other awesome products!
Earn extra entries by posting a link to this post on your Facebook wall and Twitter feed. Come back here and leave a separate comment for each of these that you do.