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Fight back against breast cancer

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Breast cancer. Two of the most frightening words to women, and rightly so. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, and breast cancer recurrence is possible even in women who have had a breast removed. With such grim statistics, what can we do to fight back?

October has been designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and healthcare providers across the country are promoting early detection as the single most important factor in fighting and surviving the disease. The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin to conduct monthly self-breast examinations at age 20, and have a clinical breast exam by their healthcare provider each year. In addition, women should begin annual mammograms at age 40.

If you are still menstruating, you should schedule your mammograms for the week after your menstrual cycle begins, when the breasts are generally less tender. On the day of the mammogram, don’t use any deodorant, lotions or powders.

During the mammogram, two flat surfaces will compress each of your breasts, one at a time, for a few seconds. Compression is necessary to get the best pictures.

Sometimes, forgetting to do your self-exam and schedule your mammogram can be a barrier to good prevention. Some women find that scheduling a mammogram around their birthday or anniversary is helpful, and perform their monthly exam on the last day of their period.

Try checking your breasts for changes in the shower. After toweling off, look for common signs of breast cancer in the mirror. Look for a change in breast size or shape. Check for changes in the color of your breast as well as skin changes like scaly, itchy areas, dimpling and puckering. Report any change from normal to your healthcare provider right away.

While some people experience clear physical changes and warning signs of breast cancer, most women do not. That is why screening is so important, as mammography has been shown to detect cancers too small to be detected by feel.

Breast cancer. Don’t let fear from those two little words scare you from protecting your breast health with monthly self-exams and yearly mammography for women older than 40.

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