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Featured Story Written by Breann Lujan-Halcon

Knowing Your Normal

Breast cancer awareness starts with you.

Through­out the month of Octo­ber, there is an inter­na­tion­al effort to raise Breast Can­cer Aware­ness. The annu­al cam­paign is often asso­ci­at­ed with all things pink but stands for a much big­ger cause, sav­ing lives.

In the year 2020, the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety esti­mates 276,480 women and 2,620 men will be diag­nosed with inva­sive breast cancer. 

While breast can­cer is the sec­ond most com­mon can­cer found in women, men, too, have breast tis­sue that is sus­cep­ti­ble to can­cer. Breast can­cer in men is esti­mat­ed to take 520 lives this year.

What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Dr. Kim West­brook is a women’s health provider at Ivin­son Med­ical Group, see­ing women in all walks of life. For her, reduc­ing your risk starts from your first appointment. 

I dis­cuss breast can­cer pre­ven­tion with near­ly all of our patients, regard­less of age,” Dr. West­brook said. In fact, every new patient in our clin­ic fills out a form to eval­u­ate if she has any high-risk fac­tors for breast cancer.”

While there are many risk fac­tors that you can­not change, like being a woman, genet­ics and aging, there are lifestyle risks that can be con­trolled.

There is no defin­i­tive way to pre­vent breast can­cer,” West­brook said. The best thing you can do is live an active and healthy lifestyle. Main­tain­ing a healthy weight, par­tic­u­lar­ly after menopause, will like­ly decrease the risk.” 

How should I mon­i­tor changes in my breast tissue?

We edu­cate more about breast self-aware­ness” now as opposed to self-breast exams. The dif­fer­ence here is that we ask patients to try to become famil­iar with their own breast tis­sue. This may allow for them to rec­og­nize a change in their tis­sue, such as a lump or mass.”

The push for breast self-aware­ness asks patients to become famil­iar with what their nor­mal” looks and feels like. 

For aver­age-risk women, we no longer rec­om­mend reg­u­lar, repet­i­tive exams for the pur­pose of detect­ing breast can­cer which is what we con­sid­er a self-breast exam,” explains Dr. West­brook. For many, this caus­es anx­i­ety that they are expect­ed to rec­og­nize some­thing abnor­mal. There­fore, we sim­ply ask patients to try to be aware of their own breast tis­sue and let their provider know if there is a change.” 

The Amer­i­can Can­cer Society’s Rec­om­men­da­tions for the Ear­ly Detec­tion of Breast Can­cer found that self-exams have not proven to detect ear­ly breast can­cer. Instead they found that symp­toms such as a lump are more often dis­cov­ered dur­ing rou­tine activ­i­ties such as bathing or dress­ing. They advise that women should become famil­iar with what is nor­mal for their breast tis­sue and should report any changes to a health­care provider right away.

What kind of changes should I be look­ing for?

  • Lump, hard knot or thick­en­ing inside the breast or under­arm area
  • Swelling, warmth, red­ness or dark­en­ing of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dim­pling or puck­er­ing of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nip­ple or oth­er parts of the breast
  • Nip­ple dis­charge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that does­n’t go away

A patient should call if there is a change such as a mass, new onset nip­ple dis­charge, red­ness in the breast tis­sue or pain,” Dr. West­brook advises.

It is rec­om­mend­ed for patients who dis­cov­er changes in their breast tis­sue, to con­tact their provider at the onset of symp­toms, rather than wait­ing. If you have ques­tions or con­cerns about your breast tis­sue, call our women’s health clin­ic at (307) 7554540 and sched­ule an appoint­ment today. 

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