The month of October is known for many exciting things; Post-season Baseball, Hockey, and Halloween at the forefront. However many of us neglect that October is breast cancer awareness month. The purpose of this designation is to help women not only prevent cancer but understand how to identify possible signs and symptoms as well as a reminder to get screened. By why does it have to end there? Should there not be a greater push for prevention rather than just detection?
Breast cancer comprises 22.9% of all cancers in women. Luckily 8/10 will survive when it is detected early. Unfortunately there is still no clear known cause of Breast cancer. However, the BCRA gene mutation found in some women has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Other risk factors include Age, High socioeconomic class, exposure to estrogen supplementation, High Alcohol consumption, Smoking, Radiation exposure, and of course Family History.
Currently the primary method of detection is through mammography. However there are some screening procedures that can be performed at home. First a visual analysis of the breast tissue can tell if there is an abnormality. Signs like Skin dimpling, nipple retraction, clear or bloody fluid draining from the nipple as well as an Orange Peel appearance are all signs that you need to seek extra testing.
A Self Examination can be performed by the following 3 steps:
1) In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2) In Front of a Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3) Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
For images that go along with these steps feel free to find more information from the National Breast Cancer Foundation website.
While detection and knowledge are great they are clearly not enough. October needs to be more about prevention. Simple lifestyle alterations have been shown to decrease risk in women. In a study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention journal found that women who simply walked 7 hours a week had a 14% lower risk for cancer and those who had more vigorous exercise saw up to a 25% reduction in risk. Other lifestyle changes that can help lower risk and prevent cancer include; Breastfeeding, Weight control, Avoiding alcohol, and Avoiding Soy based products.
It has been said that the best defence is a good offense. I believe that in the case of all types of cancers this is true. Living an active healthy life will only decrease your chances. However, we must still be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with cancer to beat it. As a public service this San Clemente Chiropractor office offers a workshop on Prevention and helps companies spread not only awareness but knowledge of how to better their lifestyles to decrease their own risk factors.