Every year, hundreds of thousands of women are diagnosed with diseases of the breast in the USA alone. Some of these diseases are cancerous, while others are not. Some non-cancerous diseases may increase risk of breast cancer. While there are some risk factors one can modify, it is not always possible to completely eliminate others.
Following a few simple steps might: A)help prevent breast diseases, and B)help identify diseases early if they do develop. Early diagnosis and treatment make cure more likely. Here are some suggestions below. There is some debate (among the oncology community), about the usefulness of some of these. Nonetheless, my opinion is if something can help and is not likely to harm, it is worth pursuing.
Have some idea of your breast cancer risk. It is important to recognize if one may have a particularly high breast cancer risk. Think of people with cancer-causing mutations, prior radiation to the chest, or many relatives with breast cancer. Being aware of such risk allows one to discuss possible approaches to reduce risk.
Monitor your breasts. From the age of 20, a woman should perform self breast exams every month. For most women, mammograms should start at the age of 40, and continue, at least every year. A physician should examine breasts once per year (aka clinical breast exam). He/she can also demonstrate the correct technique for breast exams. Some women at higher risk may need to start mammograms earlier. Some need MRI of the breasts also.
Never ignore a number of things. This includes a lump in the breast or underarm, fluid or blood draining from the nipple, nipple turning inwards or changing in texture or color. Another thing never to ignore is a rash or other change over breast skin, particularly if not going away.
Keep breasts healthy. We can do this by keeping our vitamin D levels well supplemented, not smoking, and minimizing alcohol, for example.
Please note that the medical information I share is meant to be a general guide, not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. Any communication or writing here is not intended to establish a physician-patient relationship. The exact approach in managing any particular situation, in any particular individual, depends on many variables so please be sure to discuss your thoughts and questions with your physician.
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