Breast Cancer: Awareness Is Good, But Education Is Better

Living a healthy lifestyle always helps reduce cancer risk, so exercising regularly and watching your diet are steps you can take. But it doesn’t end there.

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The national breast cancer awareness campaign that starts each October has been a great success. But awareness and education aren’t the same thing.

That’s why it’s important for everyone – especially women – to take this awareness to the next level. For breast cancer, this begins with being completely in tune with your body. According to Yvette Bessent, MD, of Northcross OB/GYN, part of Carolinas HealthCare System, this starts with a monthly self-examination.

“Most women know when something doesn’t feel exactly right,” Bessent says. “So breast cancer awareness has to start with monthly breast exams.”

When’s the Best Time for a Self-Examination?

Typically, the best time to perform a breast self-exam is about three to five days after your period starts. Your breasts are not as sensitive or lumpy at this time. For women who have undergone menopause, exams should be completed on the same day every month. Bessent stresses that making self-examination a habit is crucial for breast health – and if something doesn’t seem right during a self-exam, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.

How Often Should a Doctor Examine Me?

While self-examination is important, so is an annual visit with a gynecologist or a doctor – even if you feel perfectly healthy. This ensures that you have a clinical breast exam at least once a year. Depending on your age or breast cancer risk, your doctor will advise whether you need additional mammograms or other screenings.

What Are Common Breast Cancer Warning Signs?

Hard lumps and abnormal swelling are two key symptoms of breast cancer. But here’s a full list of other warning signs from Bessent:

Soreness or pain
Redness or darkness
Change in breast size or shape
Dimpling or prickling of the skin
Nipple discharge
Flat or inverted nipple

Again, if any of these symptoms occur, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.

How Can I Reduce My Breast Cancer Risk?

Living a healthy lifestyle always helps reduce cancer risk, so exercising regularly and watching your diet are steps you can take. However, knowing your family breast cancer history goes a long way toward prevention. Even if that history means you might be more at risk for developing breast cancer, simply knowing that, and starting annual visits at a younger age, can allow you to catch symptoms much earlier.

Have additional questions about breast cancer? At Carolinas HealthCare System, we’re committed to making it as easy as possible to keep you and your family healthy. To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule your annual clinical breast exam, call 844-881-2180 or complete an online appointment request form to find a doctor near you.

Editor’s Note: This articles, authored by Carolinas HealthCare System, was published under a sponsorship agreement.

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