October 5, 2021Breast health

Breast observation: be your own breast expert!

On this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it should be remembered that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime1. And one informed woman is twice as aware!

Although it is not known precisely what causes breast cancer, it is established that there are risk factors: those that are non-modifiable and therefore beyond our control and those that are modifiable and often linked to lifestyle habits.

Among the non-modifiable factors, research has shown that estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones that play an important role in many stages of a woman’s life) are often implicated in several common and well-known types of breast cancer. For example, prolonged exposure to these hormones may increase the risk of developing the disease: having your first periods before the age of 12, advanced age pregnancy, not breastfeeding, menopause after 55, and so on.

On the other hand, it is possible to reduce one’s risk by adopting healthy lifestyle habits (modifiable factors) such as regular physical activity, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking. Although there is no guarantee of protection, these are ways to limit risks while improving physical and mental well-being! Learn more here about breast cancer risk factors.

So then, how is breast cancer detected?

By becoming your own breast expert!

Breast observation starts with knowing your breast area, from collarbone to armpit, including nodes, breast and nipple. This knowledge is essential for detecting potential breast cancer. Who hasn’t heard of the lump detected while showering? This is obviously the most well-known sign. However, breast cancer can manifest itself in other ways. So you should look out for other signs and symptoms

  • Changes in breast size or shape,
  • Dimples or folds in the skin of a breast,
  • Redness, swelling or increased warmth in a breast,
  • Persistent itching,
  • Nipple retraction (turned inward),
  • Crusting or scaling nipple (small flakes of skin that fall off).

Go here to learn more about breast observation.

To put it simply, there are two words to remember about such changes: new and persistent. It is of course possible for your breasts to be more sensitive before your period: this is a normal and recurring change. But if you wake up one morning with a redness on one breast that wasn’t there the day before, and it doesn’t go away, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Learn here how to do your breast self-observation thoroughly with our guide.

What to do if you detect something

The first and most important thing to do is to contact your family doctor, even if you are frightened that it may be cancer. Rest assured, most breast symptoms turn out to be benign, but when in doubt it is very important to check. Remember that early detection of breast cancer means a better prognosis for recovery!

We invite you to call our information and help line at the first symptom that worries you: 1 855 561-PINK. One of our specialists will answer you confidentially and will be able to guide you.

1 “Breast cancer statistics | Inform me.” Ruban rose (blog). Viewed on September 22, 2021, https://rubanrose.org/en/inform-me/all-about-cancer/breast-cancer-statistics.

Bibliography

Ruban rose. “Male breast cancer| Inform me.” Viewed September 22. 2021, https://rubanrose.org/en/inform-me/all-about-cancer/male-breast-cancer.
Ruban rose. “Breast cancer screening and risk factors | Inform me.” Viewed September 22. 2021, https://rubanrose.org/en/inform-me/all-about-cancer/screening-and-risk-factors.
Ruban rose. “Breast cancer statistics | Inform me.” Viewed September 22. 2021, https://rubanrose.org/en/inform-me/all-about-cancer/breast-cancer-statistics.

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