Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
Any lump or swelling under the arm or around the collar bone, whether painful or painless
Breast cancer is common… true. Breast cancer is frightening… absolutely. Breast cancer can kill…yes, it can. But it is important to know that breast cancer is also very often curable when diagnosed early. And, although there is nothing anyone can do that will absolutely, positively prevent breast cancer, there are steps we can all take to make sure our breast cancer risk is as low as possible.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives us an opportunity to review the signs (bottom of page) and symptoms of breast cancer and offer some helpful prevention tips.
Know your personal risks. Become very familiar with your family’s history of breast cancer. Find out for sure if anyone has had the disease on either side of your family. Your aunts and uncles, your grandparents and their siblings, your cousins, etc. Discuss your family history and your breast cancer risk with your doctor.
*Resource: the American Cancer Society
Keep as physically active as possible. Research suggests that regular exercise can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Incorporating regular exercise into your life does not mean going to the gym for a strenuous workout. It can mean taking a short walk and/or practicing yoga every day. Speak with your doctor about the type of exercise that would be best for your physical abilities.
Stay at a healthy weight. Carrying extra pounds can increase the risk of breast cancer. A midlife weight gain, particularly after menopause for women, is even more likely to increase the risk.
Keep in mind that men can also be victims of breast cancer. See "Breast Cancer... Not Just a Woman's Concern."
Have your Vitamin D level tested. Some research suggests a link between Vitamin D deficiencies and breast cancer. Your Vitamin D level can be determined through a simple blood test.
A nipple discharge other than breast milk
Nipple retraction (turning inward)
Do not smoke. There is a great deal of evidence supporting a link between smoking and an increased risk of breast cancer. Smoking increases the risk of other cancers as well.
Get regular medical exams and breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer screening involves checking the breasts for evidence of the disease before any obvious signs or symptoms are present. Screening can identify breast cancer at very early stages when treatment is most effective. Your doctor will be able to recommend the type of screening you should have as well as when and how often you should be screened. There are times when more than a traditional mammogram may be necessary.
Skin irritation or dimpling
Any new lump or mass in the breast/chest area, whether painful or painless
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Studies have associated alcoholic beverage consumption with an increased risk of breast cancer. This includes beer, wine, and liquor. Discuss your level of alcohol consumption with your doctor.