October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! It is a time to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer and encourage women to become proactive about their breast cancer screening.
Thanks to Katie Couric for sharing her recent breast cancer diagnosis. She was six months overdue for her mammogram. Thankfully, her cancer was in its early stages. Now Katie is on a crusade to help remind women to stay up to date on their mammograms.
Here are some interesting tidbits that Katie shared with the ladies on the Today Show that you may find astounding:
- Only 70% of women get breast cancer screening. (What ?!?!?!?!)
- 45-50% of women have dense breasts. (Moi included!)
- If you have dense breasts, you often need to get additional screening. Be sure to ask for further screening. Sadly, some states won’t pay for the additional screening. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Katie is on the move to get that changed.
- Get genetic testing. Insurance companies cover it. (I am sure glad that I did! I found out that I have a CHEK2 mutation. This means I am twice as likely to get breast and colon cancer. Thankfully, my breast imaging protocols have changed because I now know that I have this variant. I now have a Tomosynthesis Mammogram and an MRI with contrast once a year. Each six months apart.)
Here is the full interview:
The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. reports that, according to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99% when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage. Early detection includes:
- monthly breast self-exams
- scheduling regular clinical breast exams
Monthly Breast Self-Exams:
This video from Dr. Laura Kruper, a breast surgeon from the City of Hope, was so helpful. Dr. Kruper stresses the importance of doing this self-exam effectively. Here are some symptoms to add to the checklist:
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast.
- Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only).
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only).
- Recent asymmetry (unequal or lack of sameness) of the breasts. Although it is common for women to have one breast slightly larger than the other, it should be checked if the onset of asymmetry is recent.
- A nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted.
- The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange.
Schedule regular clinical breast exams:
If you are still menstruating, schedule your clinical breast exam soon after your period ends because your breasts can be tender and swollen during your period. This exam can be part of your yearly visit to your gynecologist for post-menopausal women.
There are lots of confusing recommendations about mammograms. You often hear that you don’t need to start screening until you are 45 or can stop at 74. For some trusted advice, I reached out to the guru, Dr. Daniel Kopans, who invented and led the group that developed Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, sometimes called 3D Mammography. He is a Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and the Founder of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a leading international expert in breast cancer detection and diagnosis. To educate yourself on the best imaging protocols, read my interview here: Menopause Mondays® Your Breast Imaging Questions Answered. Remember: Your breast imaging protocol can affect your quality of life and lifespan.
I have some valuable parting information for you. However, PLEASE do not shoot the messenger. My cancer-surviving girlfriends told me their oncologists stressed the need to drastically reduce their alcohol consumption to a drink on their birthdays only! The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer and can damage DNA in cells which may increase breast cancer risk. When they compared women who don’t drink at all to those drinking three alcoholic drinks per week, they found that the alcohol consumption group had a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. It is estimated that breast cancer risk may increase by 10% for each additional drink you have per week. (For me, the above info is doubly risky because I have that CHEK2 variant.)
Please consider this essential data. You can read my full Menopause Mondays® blog on this here.
Let’s take care of our breast friends! Be a full partner at the table and get ahead of the curve on your breast cancer detection and prevention.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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