7 Breast Cancer Early Detection & Prevention Tips You Must Learn
What’s Breast Cancer and Why Detect Early?
When breast cells begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, these cancerous cells can form a tumor. The tumor can be felt as a lump or seen on a mammogram (breast scan); this tumor's formation is called breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer, after skin cancer, and it is the most prevalent in women. Both men and women are prone to breast cancer, but it's quite uncommon in men.
The exact causes of breast cancer are still unknown, but several risk factors have been identified. These include age, family history of breast cancer, genetic mutations, radiation exposure, and other lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and lack of physical activity.
So, why should you be mindful of early detection?
Early detection of breast cancer is crucial because cancer is usually more treatable in its early stages.
Breast cancer can often be treated successfully with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, if it's found early.
But, in case cancer has progressed to the later stages—treatment may be more complex and demand more extensive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
In addition, detecting breast cancer early can help minimize the disease's physical and emotional trauma and financial impact on the patient and their loved ones.
It also helps prevent deaths caused by breast cancer and can improve the chances of a prosperous, healthy life after surgery.
Breast Cancer Early Detection Guide
Usually, the symptoms of breast cancer include lumps and changes in size and here are some ways to detect breast cancer early:
A breast self-exam is a way for a person to check their breasts for any changes or abnormalities. It's a good idea to perform a breast self-exam once a month, ideally around the same time each month, such as a week after your period.
There are two ways to perform a breast self-exam:
- Stand in front of a mirror, raise your arms overhead, and look for changes in the shape or size of your breasts.
- Lie down and place a pillow under your right shoulder. Use the fingers on your left hand to gently press around the right breast, feeling for any lumps or internal changes.
If you find or feel something unusual, you must report the abnormalities to your healthcare provider.
2. Annual Mammograms Scans
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can help detect breast cancer in its early stages.
Decades of research demonstrate that women who get routine mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer discovered earlier and are less likely to require invasive therapies like chemotherapy and surgery to remove the entire breast (mastectomy).
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women after 45 undergo mammograms every other year. It's recommended to get mammograms annually after the age of 50-55.
However, women at higher risk of breast cancer due to genetics can start getting mammograms even earlier than 40.
3. Clinical Breast Exams
A clinical breast exam is performed by your healthcare provider. It's recommended that all women must have a clinical breast exam as part of a regular whole-body check-up every 6 to 12 months.
During the exam, the healthcare provider will examine the breasts, underarms, and surrounding areas for any changes or abnormalities. Your doctor will also look for any discharge or redness around the nipple area.
It is essential to schedule regular clinical breast exams as they can also detect breast abnormalities and cancer symptoms.
Also, it's important to note that breast self-exams, mammograms, and clinical breast exams are not a replacement for each other. Instead, all these complement each other in detecting breast cancer early.
Breast Cancer Prevention Measures
So far, you have already learned how to assess your body for breast cancer symptoms, but what are the ways you don't get any?—here are some tips for you to follow:
4. Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly for postmenopausal women.
In order to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, it's crucial to maintain a healthy body weight. Average adults are recommended to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.
You can regularly perform workouts like yoga, swimming, cycling, dancing, or bodyweight training for a quick dopamine rush and muscle growth.
In addition, breast cancer risk can also be minimized by following a healthy diet rich in seasonal fruits, green vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
5. Limiting Alcohol Consumption
Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society advises women to have no more than one drink of alcohol per day—but in all terms of a healthy lifestyle, it's best to avoid alcohol altogether.
6. Understanding Your Risk Factors & Family History
Knowing your risk factors and family history can help you understand your risk of developing breast cancer and make informed decisions about early screening and prevention.
Breast cancer risk is almost doubled if a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree family) has been diagnosed with the same disease.
When more close relatives have breast cancer or if a relative was diagnosed before age 50, your risk of cancer also increases.
How?—Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer or a known genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast cancer may also want to discuss genetic testing with their healthcare provider.
For this, Genetic Testing can help you determine your risk of developing breast cancer and guide you better for early prevention and screening.
However, many women have a close relative who has the disease but never got it themselves, so don't be overwhelmed—just be cautious and mindful of your family history.
7. Discussing the Option of Prophylactic Surgery
Women at a high risk of developing terminal breast cancer must discuss the option of prophylactic (preventive) surgery, such as prophylactic mastectomy or prophylactic oophorectomy, with their healthcare provider.
This is a sensitive personal choice; thus, you must evaluate your survival chances with cancer and have a deep conversation with the best medical experts.
The Final Note
Breast cancer is a serious health concern for women of all age groups, making it essential to take proactive steps to detect and prevent the disease from becoming terminal.
Therefore, by being informed, regularly screened, and following appropriate preventive measures, you can give yourself the best chance of detecting breast cancer early and improving your chances of survival.
Remember, if you arrive late, it doesn't mean you won't survive; all you need is support from your loved ones, medical insurance, and the right doctor. So, fight till you make it.
*Note: This article is written in general terms and it's better to seek professional advice on this topic and proper medical consultation before making any decision related to personal health concerns.