Staying aware of your breast health, all year long
As we close out the month of October, we also close out National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). Launched in 1985, it has become a yearly reminder to women (and men, who are often overlooked, when it comes to the disease) to pay attention to the health of their breasts. With emphasis on ways to make sure you are proactive and preemptive about your breast health, organizations and individuals also take this month to raise money for research and advocate for other ways of raising awareness in the community. We want to punctuate the idea that in addition to NBCAM, we should be on top of our breast health, all year long. We’re outlining some ways to do that.
See your doctor regularly.
This one should be happening anyway, but in addition to your general practitioner, you should also be staying on top of your yearly (or more frequent) appointments with physicians specializing in women’s health. That way, you can get a thorough physical check, ask questions, express concerns, and talk about whether or not you need to begin screening (depending on your age and history) or receiving any other tests.
Between office visits, it’s a great idea to conduct regular self-checks of your own breasts. Breastcancer.org has a wonderfully outlined and thorough guide. While it does not replace the screening tools like seeing your doctor for a physical exam, mammograms, and ultrasounds, among other diagnostic tests, it is a tool that can be used in support of the others. Know your body, and know when you notice a change — no matter how minor — and bring these things up to your doctor, as soon as you notice them.
Sustain a healthy lifestyle.
It’s a good idea to maintain a healthy lifestyle and eating for your overall health, and that includes the health of your breasts. According to Healthline, avoiding things like smoking, heavy drinking, and estrogen exposure are good ways to help lower your risk of breast cancer. Of course, they also encourage a healthy diet that includes leafy greens, fruits, fatty fish, beans, and other healthy choices. Another suggestion we have would be to speak to a nutritionist about what bad habits you can cut out of your routine. It’s easier said than done, but your body will thank you, and you’ll feel better!
Talk to your family about history and risks.
Talking to your family about the history (or absence) of the disease in your lineage is also helpful. While the disease is not always linked to heredity, there are risk factors involved when a relative has had it. The National Breast Cancer Foundation outlines the risks associated with family history, here. Having an open and honest conversation about this topic can help protect the health of your family for generations to come.
Take these practices and notes with you into November, December, and beyond. We are strong advocates for staying on top of your breast health (and overall health, physical and mental) all throughout the year. Do your research, and reach out to some of the breast cancer organizations to educate yourselves on everything you need to know, especially as women of color. Now is the perfect time for you to schedule an appointment with your doctor to have a conversation about your breast health, and what are some things you can do to make sure you are taking care of your wellbeing. Go ahead...make that call now!