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A woman's guide to breast health

Dr. Courtney Manser is a family physician in Ontario, Canada. She has a strong interest in preventative care and believes in empowering people to take control of their own well being. As a mother, she understands the powerful need to d...

Early diagnosis and breast screening

From SheKnows Canada
Screening and early diagnosis of breast cancer are vital to breast cancer awareness. Take charge of your breast health, and become familiar with screening recommendations so you are informed and on top of your health.

Breast cancer screening saves lives daily through early diagnosis. Brands and organizations like Scotties Facial Tissue and Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation are working together to raise awareness of this important cause that affects us all in one way or another. In 2005 Scotties Facial Tissue began creating Hope box designs to support the breast cancer cause and has become one of CBCF’s top brand partners based on annual financial contribution and awareness-raising initiatives.Through vital research, education and health promotion programs that have led to progress in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, brands like Scotties Facial Tissue are truly making a difference in the lives of people everywhere.

The first step in preventing breast cancer is being aware of the risks, potential causes, and symptoms that may signal early stage breast cancer. Through something as simple as the Hope box, Scotties Facial Tissue hopes to spread the importance of awareness and prevention. Get empowered to take charge of your breast health with self-checks, screenings, and visits with your physician.

Self-check

Before beginning breast self-exams, it is important to understand the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC)'s stance. As of now, breast self-exams are not routinely suggested or taught, as there is no current evidence that they reduce mortality. In fact, the downside is that they might result in an increased rate of benign biopsies. That said, it is an individual choice based on risks as well as personal preference.

If you do choose to perform self-exams, then it's important you do them properly. To do a proper self-check, you must first be aware of your breasts. This means you must know what they look like and what they feel like so that any small changes become obvious. Many women feel most comfortable doing the exam in the shower and should do so no more often than once per month, preferably at the same time in their menstrual cycle.

When performing the exam, raise the arm of the breast you plan to check above your head. Using your opposite hand, check the breast tissue by making small, circular motions with your middle finger from the outside of the breast inward. Note that breast tissue can extend from the collarbone to the middle of the armpit to the bottom of the rib cage, and so the entire area should be checked. If you have any concerns or notice any changes, see your health care professional immediately.

Screening

Regular breast cancer screening with mammography in the general population is currently recommended every two years for women aged 50 to 69 (74 in some provinces). Mammography has been proven to detect early breast cancer in women 40 to 69. Therefore it's important to speak with your physician about your concerns, risks and preference of screening after the age of 40. Women who are at high risk should be screened with mammography and MRI every year from the ages of 30 to 69 and are often referred for genetic testing. If you are unsure about your risk, then speak with your physician as early as possible. An ultrasound may be performed alongside a mammogram in women with increased breast density, but it is rarely the sole method of breast cancer screening. Women who are over the age of 69 may still wish to continue breast cancer screening, depending on their risk, current health and preference, and should speak with their physician about continuing.

When to see your physician

A breast lump, skin changes over the breast or nipple changes or discharge when not breastfeeding should all warrant a trip to your physician immediately. Fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss and fatigue are also common (but not specific) signs of cancer and should be reported to your doctor if you have any concerns about your breast health. Speak with your health care provider early about your family history and other risks of breast cancer so that proper screening can take place.

Many treatment options are available for breast cancer that is detected early. Early diagnosis has saved many lives. Understand your screening options, and take charge of your breast health.

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