Every October is breast cancer awareness month and here at Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare, we think it’s important to take the time to talk about not only breast cancer awareness but the importance of being aware of your all-around health.
Did You Know?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in October of 1985, but it wasn’t until 1993 that the pink ribbon was introduced as the symbol of the campaign. Believe it or not the pink ribbon was designed by Evelyn Lauder, daughter-in-law of Estee Lauder (founder of the famous cosmetics company.
Today we see the pink ribbon everywhere, from NFL players’ uniforms to 5k runs and walks. Speaking of that, don’t forget that the annual Harrisonburg Race for the Cure is October 22nd in Westover Park. Learn more about this great event and register online!
Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness
But beating breast cancer takes more than just awareness. As a woman, you need to take control of your health no matter what your age. While over 80% of breast cancer cases are found in women over 50 years of age, younger women need to be aware of the risk, simply because they’re less likely to catch breast cancer early.
Identifying breast cancer early are very important when it comes to maximizing the chances of successful treatment and positive outcomes. When breast cancer is found during the early stages, there are simply more treatment options available to you and more time to make the best decision for you and your health.
Should You Have a Breast Cancer Screening?
Many women want to know if they should be checked for breast cancer, and our answer is “Yes!” However, not all women require the same type of exam or screening. The type of breast cancer screening you require might be influenced by:
- Family History – Do breast or ovarian cancers run in your family? Let your healthcare provider know.
- Genetics – If you’ve been tested for the BRCA mutation, you may need more frequent or more advanced screenings.
- Your Health History – Have you had cancer in the past? Are you young and in generally good health? The answers to these (and other questions about your personal health history) questions can help your healthcare provider help you decide which type of breast cancer screening is right for you.
What Types of Breast Cancer Screenings Are Available?
There are a variety of breast cancer screenings available to women today. There is no right choice for every woman. You can, however, make the right choice for yourself and your health by talking to your healthcare provider about your options.
Take control of your health:
Over 99.5% of mammograms show no sign of cancer!
Mammograms are perhaps the best known form of breast cancer screening. Perhaps you remember when Amy Robach was diagnosed with breast cancer after having an on-air mammogram during Good Morning America:
A mammogram is the best way for a doctor to get an accurate picture of the tissue in your breast. Mammograms can reveal very small lumps and often catch breast cancer in women who have no other symptoms. They’re also often recommend for women who have found a lump or who have pain in their breast in order to help provide a better look at what might be going on.
Never Had a Mammogram Before? Here’s What to Expect
- Start to finish, a mammogram will take about 20 minutes.
- In order to take an accurate image, your breast must be flat. So it’s best to schedule your mammogram at a time of the month when your breast is not very tender or sore.
- You likely won’t receive results right away. It might take up to a full week for a radiologist to fully review and analyze the images taken.
- Feel empowered, not afraid! If a mammogram is recommended for you, don’t worry. Only 2-4 of every 1,000 mammograms result in a breast cancer diagnosis. Be proud that you’re being proactive and taking control of your health!
Note: Keep an eye on our event calendar to see if the Sentara Mobile Mammography Van will be in our area.
Clinical Breast Exams
You might not need a mammogram every year. For some women, a clinical breast exam might be a good option for you. In a clinical exam, your doctor or a nurse will check your breasts for lumps and other irregularities in the tissue. Depending on what they find, a mammogram may be recommended as a follow-up.
At-Home Self Exams
Don’t forget about your at-home self breast exam! Many women find that checking their own breasts helps them feel more in control of their health and less anxious about breast exams performed by a health care provider.
By performing a monthly self-breast exam, you’re not just looking for lumps. You’re becoming more familiar with your body and your breast tissue. That means you’ll be more aware of any changes that do occur in the future. Nearly 40% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are found by women performing self exams. And many of these cases are caught very early, leading to positive outcomes!
A thorough self breast exam includes 4 steps:
- In the shower – Use the tips of your fingers and exam your entire breast, starting in the center. Don’t forget to feel all the way out to your armpit and check for lumps and hard, thick areas of tissues.
- In front of a mirror – Look at your breasts and look for dimpled areas of skin or any changes in your breasts’ appearance. Do this with your arms at your side and then with your arms raised above your head.
- Laying down – Put a pillow underneath your shoulder and put your arm behind your head. Use small circular motions to examine your breast tissue, including your nipple
- Notify your healthcare provider of any changes – If you find a lump or notice any changes since your last self exam, let your healthcare provider know. He or she may recommend a clinical breast exam or mammogram.
If you’ve never performed a self breast exam before, ask a nurse or doctor at your next annual health exam to learn how to perform your exam and what to look for.
The Best Way to Manage Your Health
That brings us to the most important point we have to make: The best thing you can do for your health is to schedule an annual wellness exam.
There’s simply no better way to maintain a relationship with a healthcare provider and no better way to keep track of changes in your health than an annual wellness exam. Women are at risk for many health issues, not just breast cancer. Diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, and other cancers are all serious risks to your health.
A yearly wellness exam will help you understand these risks and help you take control of your health.
Start Taking Control of Your Health Today
If you’re looking for a healthcare provider who can help you make best choices for your health, contact us at Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare. We provide compassionate care for women of all ages throughout the Harrisonburg area and the Shenandoah Valley.
We’d love to get to know you and help you take control of your health with an annual wellness exam.
Contact Us at (540) 438-1314 to Schedule Your Annual Wellness Exam
Additional photo via VisualHunt