It’s normal, of course, for your breasts to change over the years as you go through puberty, perhaps pregnancy and menopause. But it can also be confusing, especially since it can seem like guidelines are constantly changing. Keep reading for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about breast health.
1. How often should I get a mammogram?
The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 45. Women between the ages 40 to 44 have the option to begin yearly screenings, and it's recommended that women 55 and older switch to getting mammograms every two years, but can continue on a yearly basis.
So how can you know which route is best for you? If you go with the more stringent guidelines, you risk the stress and extra testing that comes with false positives. You also risk being treated for a breast cancer that would never have hurt you. If you go with the looser guidelines, the theory is that you could risk your life by delaying treatment of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, science can’t tell you what the best option for you is, but a conversation with your doctor can help you to reach a decision that you feel good about.
2. Should I do breast self-exams?
Although doctors used to advise their patients to do routine breast self-exams at home, research has not shown the practice to have the early detection and survival benefits of other screening tests, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation. Still, there is a benefit to being familiar with your breasts and how they feel, so that you know what changes to look for, which brings us to the next question…
3. What changes should I look for, according to the Susan. G. Komen foundation:
The following changes should be reported to your health care provider:
- 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
- Dimples or puckering of the skin
- Pulling in of your nipple or other part of the breast
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- Itchy scaly sore or rash on the nipple
4. Do those changes mean I have cancer?
The Susan G. Komen foundation is clear that “in most cases” these signs don’t mean cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to get checked out.
5. How does exercise affect breast health?
According to the National Cancer Institute, many studies show that physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer. Specifically, the institute suggests 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise or an equivalent combination of both types of exercise.
6. How will implants affect my risk of breast cancer?
Implants do not increase your risk of breast cancer. However, if you have implants, it’s important that you make that fact known when you schedule your appointment. Very rarely, mammograms can rupture an implant. It’s also generally necessary for the technician to take more images as both silicon and saline implants can make it difficult to read images.
7. Are there any supplements I should be taking for breast health?
With a quick search on the internet, you can find dozens of supplements claiming to reduce your risk of cancer. There are no supplements, however, that have been proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D has been shown to have some promise, but research has been inconclusive. If you’re interested in supplementing your diet, it’s a good idea to talk the idea over with your doctor, who will be able to help you decide the benefits and risks for your specific situation.
8. My mammogram says that I have “dense breasts.” Should I be worried?
So you got your mammogram results and it says that you have dense breast tissue. That simply means that your breast tissue is particularly fibrous. It does not mean you have breast cancer. In fact, about 40 percent of all women have dense breasts and about 2/3 of premenopausal women have dense breasts. Breast density tends to naturally decrease as women age. Dense breasts do make it harder to detect breast cancer, so if you’re in a high-risk category, you may want to discuss other screening options with your doctor.
9. What’s the healthiest diet for breast health?
Pretty much what you’d expect—a diet high in fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. Try to eat a wide variety of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and limit sugary and high-fat foods.
It would be great if there was a one-size-fits-all approach to breast health, but the reality is that you are unique. Fisher-Titus is now proud to offer 3D digital mammography. To learn more about how this differs from traditional, 2D mammography, check out our guide, The Benefits of 3D Mammography, and get your peace of mind today.