Take Charge of Your Breast Health

Changing exams

Take Charge of Your Breast Health

A combination of breast self-examination and clinical examination, mammogram, or thermography is key for breast cancer prevention.

Conflicting information in the media makes it difficult to know how best to protect ourselves from breast cancer. Who should we believe? Which studies are actually true? What can we do to minimize our risk?

Here’s another message to ponder, this one from the Canadian Cancer Society: Regular self-breast examinations are no longer recommended as a means to detect cancer.

Their studies show no statistical benefit for women who perform self-breast exams compared to other means of detection. The Cancer Society, however, still recommends that you know what your breasts normally feel like, so you can monitor any changes quickly. So, what should we do to protect ourselves from breast cancer?

Know Your Breasts

Continue to perform self-breast examinations and be sure to follow up with your health care provider if you detect any changes. A combination of self-examination, clinical examination (by your health care provider), mammogram, or thermography may be needed to determine the source of the change.

Mammograms use a very low dose of radiation to detect masses less than 5 mm in diameter and are generally useful for early detection for women over age 50.

Breast thermography uses very sensitive infrared cameras to detect malignant changes in tissue as well as inflammation that can detect “hot” areas up to three years before a cancer is able to be diagnosed.

Lifestyle Changes

Reduce your risk of breast cancer by making some lifestyle choices in these areas:

  • Increase intake of fibre-rich foods, legumes, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Women who consume high-fibre diets have a 30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk over those with a low-fibre diet. Aim for 25 to 30 g of fibre per day.
  • Eat a low-fat diet (20 percent of your calories) including omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Follow an exercise routine that provides30 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week.
  • Avoid processed foods, white flour, alcohol, and white sugar. These foods strip the body of essential vitamins and minerals and contribute no benefit to your overall health.
  • Eliminate chemical cleaners from your home.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle together with monitoring any changes is the most responsible way of keeping abreast of your own breast health.

Self-Breast Examination

There are two main components to an effective breast examination: the visual exam and palpation.

Visual Exam

Stand in front of a mirror and observe any dimpling, skin changes, or irregularities as you move through these exercises:

  • Place your hands on your hips.
  • Slowly raise your arms above your head to allow for a clear view of the underside of your breasts.
  • Put your hands behind your head.
  • Bend forward from your hips.

Palpation

Use the pads of your first two or three fingers. Choose one of the patterns listed below at three varying depths to complete the examination. For each section of your breast, cover the area with light, medium, and firm pressure.
clock method: divide the breast into 12 sections and palpate from the nipple towards the armpit, sternum, collar bone, and ribs.
spiral method: move in gradually increasing diameter around the nipple.

Ideas for a healthy eating plan

Breakfast: 1 cup (250 mL) whole grain cereal (quinoa, oatmeal, barley, brown rice), 1/2 cup (125 mL) fruit
Lunch: bean soup, salad with ground flaxseeds, 1/2 cup (125 mL) broccoli sprouts, quinoa
Dinner: brown rice and vegetable stir-fry, salad with sprouts, onion, and garlic, 3/4 cup (180 mL) lightly steamed vegetables
Snacks: vegetable juice, fruit, green tea, raw almonds, sunflower seeds, vegetables, hummus

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