By Alexa Santory
If you’ve ever looked at breast cancer statistics, I’m sure you’ve experienced the fear that comes along with realizing that the chances of getting it in your lifetime are much higher than you realized. It’s estimated that there’s a 1 in 8 chance that a woman will develop breast cancer in an 80-year lifespan. With that number in mind, as scary as it is, there are certain things every woman should know about breast cancer. Let’s break down the top 5 most important things to be aware of.
5 Important Things to Know About Breast Cancer
Here at Belle Bar, we believe that awareness is next to godliness. As a beauty brand, we emphasize that spreading awareness is just as important as promoting a brand. Given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want you all to know these tips and pass them on to your friends and loved ones. You never know who you could be saving!
Tip 1: Check for lumps
It’s recommended by medical professionals to perform a self breast exam at least once a month. Knowing and understanding your boobies comes in handy here, since any changes will be obvious. Knowing the normal shape, size, and texture of your boobs is important. If you notice any oddities like bumpy skin, a rash around your nipple, a change in size or shape, or even secretions from your nipples, these could all be signs of trouble. Even still, there could be no changes at all, which is why establishing a self-exam schedule is vital. Here are three ways to perform a self-exam. Keep in mind that your exam should take place shortly after your period.
- In the shower: With your arm up behind your head, use your fingers to move around your whole breast in a circular motion, moving from the outside near to armpit, to the center. Make sure to check both breasts. If you notice any lumps, hardened knots, or thickening, have them evaluated by a doctor right away.
- In front of a mirror: With your arms by your side, visually examine how your breasts look and notice if there are any changes. Then, put your arms in the air and take a closer look at your breasts. Notice if there are any changes in shape, if there’s any swelling, dimpling, or changes in the nipple.
- Lying down: Place a pillow under your shoulder your arm behind your head. Using the opposite hand, move your fingers in a circular motion, covering the entire breast area and the armpit. Change up the pressure, too. Check if there is any discharge from your nipples, or any changes in their appearance.
Tip 2: Know your risk
The risk for developing breast cancer increases with age. But this doesn’t mean that younger women can’t develop it. Although it’s uncommon and the risk is lower, it’s not impossible. The risk increases with age because younger women have denser breasts than older women. There are two types of tissue in our breasts: glandular and connective tissue. As we get older, the glandular tissue decreases, making way for more fatty tissue to develop. There’s also the risk of family history -- if someone in your family was diagnosed before 50, the chances of developing it are greater. Alcohol consumption, reproductive, and menstrual history all play a role in the development of breast cancer, too. Women who got their first period before age 12 and women who experienced menopause after 55 are more likely to develop it. Younger women aren’t bulletproof; it can be harder to detect earlier in life because of breast density. Just be sure to perform self-exams regularly.
Tip 3: No family history of the disease doesn’t mean you can’t develop it
Family history can play a role in the development of breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean that people without family history are immune to it. Oftentimes, breast cancer patients with a strong family history of the disease have inherited a certain gene mutation that makes the chances of developing breast cancer even higher. Those women only make up about 5% of all breast cancer cases, which means that there doesn’t necessarily have to be family history to develop breast cancer. Which leads into our next tip…
Tip 4: Know when to get screened.
Mammograms are necessary for every woman over the age of 45. You can choose to get screened before then, of course, but once you hit 45 it should be a yearly thing. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that helps with breast cancer detection. Mammograms help detect early signs of cancer up to 3 years before it’s felt. Most women find them to be very uncomfortable, but they’re the most effective way to detect it early. A little discomfort could save your life, so please get screened annually!
Tip 5: Breast cancer doesn’t only target women
In fact, anyone with breast tissue can be diagnosed with it. Male breast cancer is rare, but it possible and it’s more common in older men. Less than 1% of breast cancer diagnoses occur in men. Like women, the biggest risk factor of men developing breast cancer is growing older. There are other factors like higher estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels in men occur if they’re overweight, have been on hormone medications, are heavy alcohol users, or have a liver disease. In some way or another, all of these factors lead to higher levels of estrogen in the male body. Family history plays a role as well, so if there’s a strong history of it, be sure to get screened!
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