5 Things You Should Know When It Comes to Breast Health
All breasts are different. Whether it be shape, size, or texture- what’s normal for one woman may be completely different for the next. However, it is incredibly important for women to be familiar with their breasts and educate themselves on the best practices of breast health!
1. Know Your Family History / Risks
Keeping track of your family health history is an important step in understanding your personal risk of cancer. Doing this allows health care professionals to use the information and assess whether your family health history may have an impact on your risk of disease and whether you need any additional check-ups.
By looking at both your father and mother’s side, you can track which relatives had cancer (any type) and how old they were when they were diagnosed. There are several resources on the Pink Hope website to assist you, including a Family History Tree, to help map your family history, and Kiss and Tell, a resource to help guide you with what questions to ask your family.
If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and no personal history of cancer, you can use the Pink Hope Know Your Risk tool.
2. Not All Screening Is Equal
Mammography is a safe and fast procedure that can save your life. However, there are several flaws to a standard 2D mammogram that can affect cancer detection in women with certain breast characteristics.
Standard 2D digital mammography is currently the most common screening method used in Australia. However, standard 2D mammograms may be less accurate in women with dense breasts, due to lack of finding cancer hidden by the glandular, and fibrous tissues. Luckily, researchers have been studying 3D mammography and its effectiveness with dense breasts.
3D mammography has been shown to detect approximately 40% more invasive breast cancers and reduce the need for unnecessary further testing by up to 40%. This results in earlier detection than ever before and decreased anxiety about unnecessary further testing. 3D mammography may be performed in conjunction with an Ultrasound and/or MRI exam. Discuss with your doctor whether a 3D mammography exam, ultrasound or MRI might be right for you.
3. Lifestyle Factors Affect Your Risk
Lifestyle factors are known to affect your overall health and wellbeing, while also reducing your risk of several types of cancers. These non-hereditary factors include your diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise.
Eating healthy food can do wonders for your health, mood, and energy levels! Plus, fruit and vegetables are low in fat and calories and can help keep you weight under control. Aim for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day. In addition, limit sugar, salt, and processed foods, while also drinking plenty of water. Exercise can also reduce your weight and improve energy levels. 30 mins of moderate exercise on most days of the week is recommended for everyone in order to main good health.
By taking control and making healthy changes within your daily life, you will feel better and also reduce your risk.
4. Self-Examinations are First-Line of Defense
You always need to be aware of the signs, symptoms and changes in your body. When breast cancer is detected early, you have a greater chance of being treated successfully. One way to do this is to regularly perform a breast self-examination. It is so important to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts.
You should be aware of their usual size, shape and colour. Touch your breast tissue from multiple angles with varying pressure to feel both the deep and surface layers.
There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts for any changes – just look at and feel them regularly! For tips on what to look for and techniques for self-breast examinations see Pink Hope’s resource Feel Your Boobies.
5. Know Your Density
Breasts are made up of three types of tissue – fatty, fibrous and glandular tissue. Every woman is unique and has a different amount of these three types of tissue. A person with dense breasts (on a mammogram) has less fatty tissue and more glandular and fibrous tissue. Breast density is not based on how your breasts look or feel- it can only be detected on a mammogram.
Women with dense breasts have a four to five times increased risk of breast cancer compared with women with average breast density. There is also an increased risk of breast cancer not being detected by a standard mammogram in women with dense breasts.
In Australia, there is currently no requirement for breast density to be provided on mammogram reports. That means it is up to you to ask for this information. Ask your doctor if your breast density has been reported on any of your previous mammograms, and if so, what screening approach he/she would recommend.