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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month | UPMC Health Plan

The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I strongly encourage you to take a time out for your health. While most of us are aware of breast cancer, many of us forget to take the steps to help prevent the disease. It can start with a simple self-exam or scheduling your annual mammogram. Below I’ve answered a few common questions related to breast cancer.

What are some of the risk factors for breast cancer?

  • Being a woman — That’s right, just being a woman is the single biggest risk factor!
  • Being 55 or older — With age comes many risks, especially breast cancer.
  • Family history — It’s believed that about 5% to 10% is genetic. So if you have a family history, talk to your doctor.
  • Lifestyle — Being overweight or inactive, smoking, having a poor diet, and drinking alcohol excessively all contribute to a higher risk. If you are looking to make a change, call a health coach today!
  • Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — Users of HRT have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about alternatives and options.
  • Breastfeeding — According to the American cancer Society, some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it is continued for 1½ to 2 years.

How do I conduct a self-breast exam?

(Adapted from American Cancer Society Guidelines)

  • Start by lying down on your back and place one arm behind your head.
  • Aim to use dime-sized circular motions to feel the breast tissue using three finger pads.
  • While examining, move around the breast in an up and down pattern.
  • Be sure to check the entire breast area, going down to your ribs and up to your neck or collar bone.
  • Switch sides and repeat
  • Finally while standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes in size, shape, contour, or dimpling, along with redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.
  • For additional recommendations or for a full guide, visit The American Cancer Society

What is a mammogram and why should I get a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of your breast that can detect cancer early when it’s most treatable and before a patient or physician can detect changes in the breast tissue. Most mammograms are digital images of the breast tissue in black and white. Radiologists interpret and send their findings to your doctor to determine if further testing or treatment is needed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial screening for women ages 50 to 74 years old or by the recommendation of your doctor. Finding breast cancer when it is small can give women a big advantage, because cancer that is found early may be easier to treat.

These steps are easy to start on today! Protect your health by taking your first step today!