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Breast cancer awareness month has passed, but your breast care regimen should continue. With the help of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards, Bedford Breast Center in Beverly Hills, California, is getting the word out.
Women should take these steps throughout the year:
- Keep up with regular screenings.
- Check your breasts at least once per month.
- See your doctor if you notice any changes.
Kyle Richards’ Passion for Breast Health
For Kyle Richards, breast health is personal, after losing her mother, Kathleen Richards, to breast cancer. “I lost my mom to breast cancer 18 years ago,” Richards explains. “So, it’s really important to me to use my platform and my voice and get out there and remind women to get their mammograms and do a self-exam every single month, because you really can save your life.”
Kyle has teamed with Bedford Breast Center to get the word out about the importance of regular screenings.
Monthly Self Exams
Breast self-exams increase your breast awareness and can help you find any changes in the look and feel of your breasts. Discuss any changes you notice with your doctor.
Screening mammography is the only method proven to reduce breast cancer deaths. Experts recommend annual mammograms for women aged 40 and over.
Caring for Your Breasts through Every Season of Life
In Your 20s – Get Acquainted with Your Breasts
“It’s important to start early with regular breast checks,” says Dr. Heather Richardson, mastectomy surgeon at Bedford Breast Center in Beverly Hills. “You usually want to perform these self-exams at Day 7-10 of your period, when the tissue is calmest and even.”
Breast tissue is at its most dense and complicated in your 20s. “The more you appreciate the way your tissue normally feels, the more likely you are to sense a change,” Richardson says, noting that it’s normal to feel rubbery, tender lumps.
Things to look out for:
- Painless, hard lumps.
- Areas of dimpling.
- The nipple sinking into the breast.
- Shadowing or skin-color change.
- Discharge from the nipple (you may notice this as staining on your bra).
- Any mass that doesn’t decrease in size later in your menstrual cycle.
While there are plenty of healthy reasons for these occurrences, you should still see your doctor.
Learn your family health history to find out if you’re a candidate for early screenings or genetic testing. “Father’s history is just as important as mother’s,” Dr. Richardson says, “Talk to your relatives and get to the bottom of your family history. This is especially important for people of color and people with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, because those patient populations have a higher risk of having hereditary disease. And especially people of color have a higher risk of having younger, more deadly cancers.”
Adopt healthy habits early. Dr. Richardson suggests taking the following steps to help lower your risk factors:
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy body weight and BMI.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Minimize red meat and dairy consumption, and maximize plant-based food sources.
- Dr. Richardson suggests “one cup of soy and one tablespoon of ground flaxseed per day.”
In Your 30s – Pregnancy, Risks Factors, and More
In your 30s, you can begin calculating your risk with your doctor’s help or with accredited online tools. The National Cancer Institute’s risk calculator is available to all women to calculate the risk of breast cancer over the next five years, as well as lifetime risk.
Be aware of how pregnancy changes your breast tissue. Pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in the breasts. Your OB-GYN can help you monitor these changes.
Talk to your doctor about breast imaging. Doctors generally recommend annual breast imaging starting in your 40s, but you should discuss whether you need earlier screenings due to family history or other reasons.
In Your 40s – Begin Annual Screenings
Unless your doctor has recommended earlier screenings, schedule your first mammogram at age 40. If you have dense breast tissue or are at high risk of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about whether additional tests, such as ultrasounds or MRIs, should be added to the screening process.
In Your 50s – Optimize Your Health
Continue the healthy habits you’ve already established. “In your 50s, you want to be sure that you’re doing everything in your body to keep cancerous changes from happening,” says Dr. Richardson. This includes:
- Consuming cruciferous vegetables
- Avoiding processed foods and sugars
- Getting adequate sleep
- Avoiding stress
- Optimizing your health with exercise and a balanced diet
You should also re-calculate your risk assessment, since the parameters in the risk calculator change over time.
Dr. Richardson says that this is the time to “discuss with your doctor if you need to be on hormone replacement therapy. If you’re perimenopausal and having symptoms, talk about the risks and benefits of hormonal changes that may or may not impact the risk of breast cancer.”
In Your 60s and Beyond – Revisit Your Breast Health Plan
In your 60s, you should understand your screening process, the types of screenings you should have, and your risk. For example, osteoporosis treatments can be useful in reducing breast cancer risk. If you’ve had a breast biopsy with findings that signify increased risk, you and your doctor might consider chemoprevention options.
Breast tissue becomes less dense in your 60s, which means “screening can sometimes become less complicated,” Dr. Richardson says. “Women in their 60s sometimes can back away from extra screening modalities.”
This doesn’t mean you should cancel your next mammogram — just that you should speak with your doctor about your specific needs.
“We still want to stay on top of things,” says Dr. Richardson. “It’s not that we don’t need to look at [less complicated breast tissue] anymore, it’s that we may not need to look at it with as many studies.”
To decide the frequency of future breast cancer screenings, speak with your doctor about your overall health and any intervening medical issues.
Schedule Your Breast Cancer Screening At Bedford Breast Medical Center
Take charge of your breast health. Get regular screenings and partner with breast experts who understand your needs. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, contact Bedford Breast Medical Center in Beverly Hills, CA, today.