By Courtney Bibo
Published in The Burg October 21, 2021
I thought it would be appropriate to discuss breast cancer awareness during October since it’s officially the Breast Cancer Awareness month! Also, we’re currently learning all about breasts in my Advanced Comprehensive Health Assessment class, so everything is fresh in my mind!
The first thing I would like to talk about are breast self-exams. Most people reading this are probably automatically thinking to themselves that women should perform a breast self-exam every month.
However, that’s actually not recommended anymore. The reason is because after all those years of promoting them, they never proved to be effective in detecting cancer or improving survival rates for those who actually had breast cancer. There were a lot of false positives which resulted in overdiagnosis.
The new thing is to encourage “Breast Self-Awareness”. This means that women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel, but not necessarily going on the hunt for a problem. I think it’s a good idea to always change in front of a mirror so you routinely see how your breasts look and move.
Risks factors are always important to talk about because some of them are in our control. Here is a list of factors that increase the risk of breast cancer that we can control: Not having children (for those able to conceive), first child after age 30, oral contraceptives (“the pill”), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), non-breastfeeding, drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, obesity with a high fat diet, and being physically inactive. These are all things we can control; some are easier to control than others, I realize that. However, it’s comforting to know that we do have some power over this cancer.
As for risk factors out of our control, here is a list: Being older than 50, a personal or family history of breast cancer, high-density breast tissue, starting your period before 12 years, menopause after 55 years, prior breast biopsy or radiation.
With all of that being said, 70% of breast cancers in women are not related to any risk factors other than age. So, what are we to do if we shouldn’t perform a self-exam and our age is our worst enemy? Every organization is slightly different in their recommendations. According to the American Cancer Society, if you’re of average risk, they recommend regular mammograms starting at age 45 and then starting at 55, you can get them every 2 years. (Average risk would mean people who do not have a personal or family history of breast cancer and have not inherited a gene mutation.) According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, for average risk, you should get a mammogram every 1-2 years starting at 40, (definitely start by 50, at the latest) through 75 years.
I encourage each of you to tell 2 people these new guidelines to help spread the word! Happy Breast Self-Awareness month! As always, feel free to reach out to me with any comments or questions at C.G.Bibo@outlook.com. I’d love to hear from you!
For a complete understanding of “average risk” or “high risk” please visit https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-american-cancer-society-new-breast-cancer-screening-guideline.html and https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/mammography-and-other-screening-tests-for-breast-problems
(Courtney Garland Bibo has a bachelor's in psychology, has her cosmetology license and still runs a salon, works as a Registered Nurse, and is in her third year of her Doctor of Nursing Practice/Family Nurse Practitioner program with Psychiatric Mental Health and Rural Health concentrations at University of Illinois at Chicago- Quad Cities Campus.)