October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time best recognized because many people wear pink to raise awareness about breast cancer, the second most common cancer diagnosed in women after skin cancer. It is also good time to stress the importance of regular screenings and educate people on breast health and ways to lower their breast cancer risk factors.
What is breast health?
Breast health begins with an understanding of what is normal for your body. The best way to understand this is do perform regular self-exams. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” Self-exams are non-invasive, simple, and can be performed during your daily routine while lying in bed or in the shower. Our providers can teach you how to perform a self-exam and you can also learn how to here. Over time and with practice, you will understand that your breasts change both in sensitivity and texture during different times of your menstrual cycle.
“Here at GRMDC we are committed to breast health. Our medical assistants start the process by [understanding] family histories. Our providers discuss what breast health is and the need for mammograms during well visits and the health maintenance triggers providers to make sure that patients keep up to date with mammogram appointments. Our quality team works side by side with patients and providers to help you navigate the process from referral to results,” said Chekesha Carter, Nurse Manager.
Self-exams are only one tool to help you understand your body and should not replace a visit to your doctor.
Understanding your risk factors helps to educate you in knowing if you are at greater risk for developing breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are some factors you have control over such as staying physically active, lowering your alcohol consumption, not smoking, or taking hormones. But there are certain risk factors that you cannot change such as age, family history, certain drugs and reproductive health. Understanding these risks and your lifestyle provides you with the necessary information to be a proactive advocate for yourself and your health.
“African American women are much more likely than white women to die of breast cancer and nearly twice as likely as white women to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and harder to treat than other subtypes of breast cancer. I think here at GRMDC we do extremely well at using thrive screenings to help identify patients that may have socio-economical barriers that may impede on them choosing to get mammograms,” Chekesha said.
Establish Healthy Habits
Simple ways to improve your breast health and lower your risk of breast cancer are:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods
Your providers at GRMDC are here for you to work with you to discuss tips to live a healthy lifestyle and your personal health history. “I am committed to my work in Breast Health; breast cancer screening. I really love working with our patients to educate them on the importance of getting their screenings as well as being a resource of support in scheduling mammograms and associated follow up exams,” said Macadia Carter, Population Health Coordinator.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. In addition to basic mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies are tools to better diagnose abnormalities in breast tissue. Your physician will work with you to determine the recommended frequency of your mammograms. Factors such as age and family history, determine how often you should receive one.
Many women are hesitant to schedule mammograms; however, regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to detect breast cancer early.
At GRMDC, your health is our priority. Our staff is committed to providing you excellence in care and can work with you to overcome obstacles you might face to ensure you get the care you deserve. Whether it’s insurance questions, transportation issues or counseling to understand what to expect during exams, we are here to help.