What is Breast Awareness?
What is this new term “breast awareness”? As providers, we use this term as a way to communicate to women the importance of a broader awareness of breast health, that goes beyond the traditional monthly breast self-exam and a yearly mammogram.
Breast awareness begins with knowing your family history. Asking relatives including grandmothers, mothers, aunts, fathers, and others about their cancer history. Some cancers that are not breast cancer can be associated with an increased risk, so knowing your greater family history is important. Remember that history changes as we age, so keep your ears open for new information.
If someone has had breast cancer or ovarian cancer in your family, especially if you have several relatives with one or both cancers, understand if any affected relatives have had genetic testing.
As providers, we no longer spend so much time on teaching breast self-examination and we no longer hand out those “shower cards” to promote self-checks. This doesn’t mean that the self-exam isn’t a good idea. It is! What we want you to do is regularly monitor your breast health so that you can report to your doctor if you feel anything irregular or different. We want you to be aware. It is then our job to help determine what type of tests, if any, are needed depending on your family history and physical examination.
Given that the recommendations around appropriate screening tests, such as mammograms and MRIs have continued to change, it can be confusing to keep up. Current recommendations:
Normal/Low-Risk Women Age 30
- Get a yearly clinical breast examination and discuss with your doctor if other tests are needed.
Factors that determine mammogram need:
- your family health history.
- How many children have you had?
- How long did you breastfeed?
- The age when you first had a child.
- Whether or not you are carrying extra weight.
- If you've had a previous breast biopsy.
It can be confusing, but together we can figure out the right plan. Do your breast exam periodically and have good communication with your doctor. Awareness will reduce anxiety and potentially head off a problem early.
DISCLAIMER: The contents and opinions expressed by Everett Clinic teammates and providers on “A Healthier You” blog and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not a substitute for medical advice. Consult your own provider for personal health recommendations.
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