October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but breast health always matters for women of every age. It’s imperative for women to proactively address breast cancer. One of the most important factors in catching any problems early on—when they’re most treatable—is knowing what’s normal for your breasts and what isn’t. It’s also important to perform regular breast self-exams to check for potential problems; be aware of your personal breast cancer risk factors; and seek regular preventative care to maintain your breast health. Here are some tips to help keep your breasts healthy during the month of October and all year long.
Know What’s Normal
It’s quite common for women to become concerned whenever they notice some sort of change in their breast tissue. However, many things that women may fear are “abnormal” for their breasts are actually perfectly fine. These include:
- Breasts that vary somewhat in size from one to another
- A breast that hangs a bit lower than the other one
- Breast soreness or tenderness, especially around your period
- Random hairs around your nipples
None of these variations in your breasts should cause concern. However, you should call your doctor to get checked if you notice these other breast changes:
- Any sort of new, firm lump
- Swelling in your breast or the surrounding area (including your armpits or collarbone)
- “Orange peel” (thickened, cracked or dry skin) around your nipple
- Breasts that leak blood or other fluid (aside from milk)
- Breasts that are warm or itchy
These symptoms aren’t automatically signs of cancer, but it’s important to talk to your doctor and have them checked out.
No matter your age, it’s important for every woman to perform breast self-examinations regularly. Doctors typically recommend that you check your breasts once a month. According to Johns Hopkins Medical, 40% of breast cancer diagnoses stem from a woman feeling a lump during a breast self-exam, making breast self-examination a potentially life-saving preventative measure. You can easily perform a breast self-exam in the shower, in front of your bedroom mirror, or lying down on your bed. This resource contains some excellent information on the steps to a thorough breast self-exam.
Take Care of Yourself and Eliminate Risk
There are many ways to lower your risk of breast cancer through preventative measures. Limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day (or less). If you’re a smoker, quit. Keeping up with a regular exercise routine, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a balanced and healthy diet can also reduce your breast cancer risk.