Why Every Woman Should Practice BSA

BSA, or breast self-awareness is a must! Because your breasts go through many changes during life, including puberty, menstruation, having a baby and the natural aging process, it can be hard to determine what's normal. 

However, by taking time to get to know your breasts you can establish a baseline, or what normal means for your breasts. This will make detecting any changes—big or small—much easier

Of course, breast self-awareness is only a small part of breast health. There are many things you can do to prevent breast cancer and lower your overall risk. Here are some of the tips that Kimberly C. Hutcherson, MD, the Medical Director of Breast Imaging at the Gwinnett Breast Center, recommends.

Know your breast cancer risk

Know your family history: Both maternal (mother) and paternal (father) history

Consult with you doctor: Learn more about your risk for breast cancer. There are many factors that can increase your risk for developing breast cancer, including:
  • Your age
  • Age at 1st menstrual period
  • Age at 1st child birth
  • Number of breast biopsies
  • Breast biopsy which yielded atypical hyperplasia
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Genetic mutation (BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene or genetic syndrome)
  • Mantle radiation therapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Mantle field includes lymph node areas in the neck, chest, and under the arm.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

The good news is, when you implement healthy behaviors, you are not only preventing breast cancer, you are preventing numerous other diseases and cancers. Some of the most essential behaviors to adopt include:

Achieve & maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight is stressful for your entire body. While losing weight can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be. Utilize experts to help you; this can include working with athletic trainers, dietitians and medical weight loss programs. These experts can provide customized advice to address your unique needs and risk factors, as well as to ensure success for the long-term.

Exercise & stay active: Regular physical activity has countless benefits, both physical and psychological. By incorporating at least 1 hour of exercise a day, you will significantly decrease health risks. There are numerous ways to incorporate more activity throughout your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further away at the grocery store or mall. Take up hiking. Join a gym and take advantage of group exercise classes such as Zumba, cycling, or boxing.

Limit alcohol intake: In regards to alcohol intake, the key to staying health is moderation. By routinely having more that 1 or 2 drinks per day, your cancer risk is increased. The American Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men. Research has shown that women who have 2 – 5 alcoholic drinks daily have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who drink only 1 drink a day or not at all. Limiting alcohol is especially important for women who have other risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history.

Quit smoking: Smoking increases your risk of developing several different types of cancer. To stop smoking for good, talk with your physician, who can recommend aids and medications, to aid the quitting process. Also, talk with ex-smokers about their experience with quitting and what works; this will increase your accountability.

Make Breast Health a Routine: Stay up-to-date on cancer screenings, annual screening mammograms should begin at age 40 and continue every year after. Experts have found that by getting routine mammograms, the severity of breast cancer can be significantly reduced by detecting cancer early when treatment is more effective to save lives. In addition, by getting your regular screening mammogram, specialists are able to find and remove abnormal areas before they become cancer.

If you are at a higher risk, talk with your doctor about additional or alternative screening tests that may be right for you. This can include tomosynthesis (tomo), a 3D mammogram that is more detailed and is significantly more likely to find more invasive cancers earlier, or a breast MRI. 

Take Action

When to Talk to Your Doctor: By practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors, as well as routine medical screenings, you are significantly reducing your risk of developing breast cancer. However, in the event that you notice any of these abnormalities make sure to see your doctor. These are not normal symptoms and will need attention:
  • Lump, thickening or focal pain in the breasts or in the armpit (swollen lymph nodes)
  • Swelling, warmth, change of color (redness or darkening of the breasts)
  • Change in size or shape of breasts
  • Pulling in of the nipple or skin of the breasts
  • Change in nipple – scaly sore, rash, itchy
  • Nipple discharge, especially if bloody, nonspontaneous (happens without squeezing), persistent and one-sided. Many nipple discharges that can be squeezed out which appear watery, greenish/yellow, brown, grey or milky can be normal. However, any discharge should not be ignored and you should see your doctor for evaluation and to receive a diagnosis.
Ignorance is not Bliss

Don’t keep yourself in the dark: For many women, breast cancer is still one of the most feared health conditions. While it is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly, it should not deter you from being proactive in your fight against breast cancer. The truth is, if you have breast cancer, diagnosed or not, it will not go away on its own. By talking with your doctor at the first sign of any breast abnormalities, you are ensuring breast health and promoting early detection.

In addition, breast self-awareness techniques and healthy lifestyle behaviors, as well as routine medical screenings, have a tremendous impact on your overall breast health. If you have any questions or concerns the experts at the Gwinnett Breast Center  will ensure that you have all the information, screening services, diagnostics and treatment options that you need. Our breast health experts are passionate about caring for the entire individual. As a team, they strive to provide comprehensive and compassionate care at every stage of the healing process.  


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