October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention and the value of early screening and detection. Breast cancer is a common fear among women, and knowledge is the best weapon against fear.
Some healthy habits may decrease your risk of getting breast cancer.
- Watch your weight. It is important to stay at the right body weight for your height and age. Overweight women have higher estrogen levels, which can increase cancer risk.
- Get physical. Working out helps lower body fat and less fat means less risk.
- Cut back on alcohol. Limit yourself to one drink a day.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes raises your risk. If you are a smoker, learn about our Tobacco Cessation Program.
- Get your annual well-woman checkup. Discuss screening recommendations with your provider.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
A self-exam is a way to check for abnormalities. While a self-exam is not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer, knowing how your breasts normally look and feel can help you monitor any changes in your body that may signify breast cancer. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform a self-exam at least once a month. To perform a self-exam:
- Check your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look for:
- dimpling, puckering or building skin
- redness, soreness, rash or swelling
- an inverted nipple or nipple discharge
- Still looking in the mirror, raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.
- Place a pillow under your right shoulder. Raise your right arm above your head and using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit with varying pressure and checking for lumps, swelling, bruises or abnormal nipple discharge. Repeat this for your left breast.
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your odds of recovery. A clinical breast exam is recommended once a year for women starting between ages 13-15. The most useful test for finding breast cancer in its early stages is a routine mammogram — recommended for women age 40+.
Members of the Compass Rose Health Plan (women age 35 and older) are covered at 100% for annual routine mammograms. Talk with your provider to learn more about your individual risk factors and screening recommendations.
Questions? Call UMR at (888) 438-9135.