October is Breast Cancer Awareness month but taking control of your breast health is more than a one-month commitment. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, breast screenings have plummeted. While screenings have started to rise, the gap between expected screenings and actual screenings is concerning.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And breast cancer doesn’t just affect women. Though at much lower rates, men can get breast cancer, too.
“It’s important for you to understand your breast cancer risk,” says surgical oncologist, Dr. Stanley Wilson. “You should know when to get regular screenings, and you should pay attention to breast changes and make healthy choices.”
Breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screening through an imaging test called a mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer.
Women with an average risk for developing breast cancer should have a screening mammogram every year starting at age 40.
Talk to your doctor about your family history of breast cancer to determine your risk. Your risk will tell you when regular screening is right for you.
What you can watch for
Mammography is the best way to diagnose breast cancer, but you shouldn’t ignore your breasts until it is time for that exam.
Though a lump is the most common sign of breast cancer, other signs and symptoms can indicate a problem. These include:
- Breast pain or heaviness
- Persistent changes to the nipple
- Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms
- Swelling, thickening or redness of the breast skin
Talk to your doctor about any signs and symptoms you notice.
A dose of cancer prevention
While not all breast cancers are preventable, you can lower your risk for cancer by practicing healthy habits:
- Avoid tobacco and reduce your alcohol intake. The ACS recommends no more than one drink per day for women, two for men.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are believed to lower your risk for a specific type of breast cancer.
- Exercise regularly. The ACS recommends adults get 150 minutes of exercise each week. This exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous, and moderate intensity sessions can be split into several short increments throughout the week.
Get a good night’s sleep. Avoid tablets, TVs and phones right before bed to allow your body to produce melatonin—the “sleep hormone.” Melatonin regulates estrogen, which has been linked in high levels to breast cancer. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
If you’ve missed a mammogram due to COVID-19, reschedule today. Call (843) 402-5000 or visit rsfh.com/mammo.