After my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt overwhelmed. My family’s focus was on her treatment and recovery, but I couldn’t help but worry about my own health. Luckily, I had a support system of women in my family who had been through similar experiences. Through my journey with Northwestern Medicine, I’ve learned valuable lessons that I want to share with others who also want to be proactive about their breast health.
1. Talk to your healthcare provider
Your first step should be discussing any concerns or changes in your health history with your primary healthcare provider. It’s important to have a trusted healthcare provider who can guide you through this journey and provide personalized advice. Avoid relying solely on internet research, as it can often be overwhelming and inaccurate.
2. Know your family history
Understanding your family’s cancer history is crucial. Knowing your family’s cancer history from the past three generations can help your healthcare provider determine your risk for breast cancer. While not every breast cancer is genetic, there may be trends within your family that are important to be aware of.
3. Understand your risk
Learning about your personal risk for breast cancer can be scary, but it’s essential information. Knowing your risk helps you understand what steps you can take to potentially lower your risk and receive the necessary screenings for early diagnosis. Remember, early diagnosis is key in treating breast cancer.
4. Follow recommended screenings
Breast cancer is common, and there are clear recommendations for screenings and follow-ups. Even if you feel fine, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for regular screenings. This establishes a consistent relationship and ensures you stay up to date on the latest recommendations and resources.
5. Perform regular breast exams
Get into the habit of regularly examining your breasts. Familiarize yourself with how they normally look and feel, so you can identify any changes. Look for lumps, swelling, dimpling, pain, irritation, discharge, or changes in shape. If you notice anything unusual, reach out to your healthcare provider.
6. Speak up about concerns
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or worries about your breast health. No concern is too small, and it’s important to prioritize your health. Many healthcare facilities now offer online portals for easier communication with your providers.
7. Do what helps ease your mind
While there isn’t a guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, you can do what makes you feel more at ease. Whether it’s switching to natural deodorant, opting for cleaner beauty products, or making dietary changes, do what works best for you. Remember, these choices are personal and should empower you in taking control of your health.
Remember, these suggestions are not a replacement for individualized medical advice. However, by following these proactive steps, you can empower yourself to take control of your breast health.