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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The beginning of October brings cooler weather (usually), football, Halloween costume shopping, and more recently in the past few years, Pink Ribbons. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and although we see the ribbons and even donate to the fundraisers, still many of us aren't taking the time to do our own self-checks. Read on to see how easy it is, how important it is, and get with the program.
In 2012 it is estimated that 226,870 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 39,510 of these women will die (Susan G. Komen Foundation.) Mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives will lose their lives from this invader with no specific victim. Any age, any background, any woman is susceptible. In fact, even men can fall pray, with 2,190 estimated cases this year and 410 estimated deaths. Breast cancer is second only to non-melanoma skin cancer as the most prominent in women (and you can read more about skin cancer in our blog, here.)    

So what can you do to protect yourself?

First, Get the Facts Straight.

Myths are always circulating about this causing cancer and that not causing it anymore--the media loves to scare us on a nightly basis. Deodorant and Antiperspirant have recently been rumored to cause breast cancer, but the American Cancer Society confirms "there is very little laboratory or population-based evidence to support this rumor."

The main factors that appear to increase your risk (some only slightly), according to the American Cancer Society, are: * Drinking alcohol (2-5 drinks daily) * Getting your first period before age 12 * Continuing to have periods after age 55 * Not having your first full-term pregnancy until after age 30, or no children * Family history--both mother's and father's sides * Already diagnosed with benign breast conditions (like fibrosis) * Birth Control pills * Hormone therapy after menopause * Being overweight or obese * Little physical activity Having one or a number of these factors doesn't mean you will get breast cancer, it's only a head's up that you may be more at risk. Family history, in fact, isn't as huge of a determining factor as many women think. "An inherited abnormality is the strongest risk factor, but only 10 percent of all cases of breast cancer are due to it. About 85 percent of women who develop the disease don't have a family history," says the Pink Ribbon Foundation. However, having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer almost doubles a woman's risk, so just because the majority of women do not have family history, pay CLOSE attention if you do.
Second, in addition to seeing your gynecologist once a year for an annual checkup, REMEMBER TO DO YOUR MONTHLY BREAST SELF-EXAMS (BSE'S).
It's easy to put BSE's into the same category as something like kegels. They're both annoying, a little uncomfortable, time-consuming, and yet another thing to think about on top of the millions of things running through our brains each day. Kegels can help you do more jumping-jacks without tinkling in your pants, but BSE's can save your life. The American Cancer Society notes that thousands of lives are saved each year due to early detection in mammograms, regular checkups, and BSE's. It's also highly recommended that women start receiving yearly mammograms at the age of 40, or earlier if there's a family history of breast cancer. BSE's should begin in the 20s, in addition to yearly checkups. It's easy to get so caught up in proper technique that you just give up, but the main purpose to BSE's is for women to get familiar with their own breasts. Breasts are naturally lumpy and bumpy, so examining them each month can help map out what's normal. Get your husband in on the fun--many abnormalities have been detected by partners who know their mate's curves and become aware of differences. The best time of the month to do a BSE is a few days after your period, when breasts are least likely to be swollen. The more regularly you exam yourself, the easier and more comfortable you'll be, and the easier it will be to detect differences. The different "regions" of the breast have different textures: near the armpit tends to be the most lumpy, the lower half can feel like pebbles or sand, the area under the nipple can feel like large grains, and still other parts can feel like lumpy oatmeal.                   How to perform a Self Breast Exam                     --from Pink Ribbon International-- STEP 1The first step is to look at your breasts in a mirror, with straight shoulders and your arms on your hips.You should look if:
    • Breasts are their usual size, shape, and color.
    • Breasts are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling.
 If you see any of the following changes you should inform you doctor:
    • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin.
    • A nipple that has changed position or become inverted (pushed inward.)
    • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling of the breasts.
  STEPS 2 AND 3 Raise your arms and look for the same changes as you did in Step 1. While you're at the mirror gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid, or even blood). STEP 4 Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the three middle fingers of your hands, keeping the fingers flat and together; use a circular motion. Check the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side - from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to you cleavage.   STEP 5Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is slippery, so they like do this step in the shower. Follow the same procedures an in Step 4.Notify your doc if you feel a new lump, something that just feels different, or if you notice changes that last for a month or seem to get bigger/worse. Check out the pics below to see common abnormalities that should be seen by a doctor. In most cases, these changes will not be cancer. Our breasts can change just like the rest of our bodies with aging, pregnancy, periods, menopause, etc., so remain calm but still get it checked out.
Warning signs-lump
Warning signs-swelling
Warning signs-change in size
Warning signs-dimpling
Warning signs-nipple rash
Warning signs-pulling in nipple
Warning signs-hipple discharge
Warning signs-pain