Straight, No Chaser: This is How You Self-Assess For Breast Cancer, Part 1


When I started this point, my first thought was “Why reinvent the wheel? There is a massive amount of information available on the web about breast cancer.” However, as I looked through it all, I was equally amazed at how technical and filled with medical jargon much of it is. I guess that’s why Straight, No Chaser comes in handy! With that in mind, today I’m going to address specific simple steps you should be taking to assess yourself for breast cancer.
1. Reduce your risk factors

  • Discuss with your physician balancing the need for birth control with the use of oral contraceptives
  • When you are pregnant, breast feed
  • Exercise and reduce your obesity
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • If you’re post-menopausal, discuss with your physician balancing the need for hormone use with your breast cancer risks

2. Get screened

  • Learn your body better than anyone else; learn to do breast exams at and after age 20
  • Have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40
  • Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 unless your physician places you on a different schedule

3. Know the signs of concern and prompts to see your health care provider

  • Lump, hard knot or change in consistency inside the breast or underarm area
  • Persistent pain, swelling, warmth, redness or discoloration of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling, puckering or pulling in of the skin, nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly

I welcome your questions and comments.
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0 thoughts on “Straight, No Chaser: This is How You Self-Assess For Breast Cancer, Part 1

  1. Do herbal menapausal medications put you at the same risk as hormone replacement medications you mentioned?
    What kind of medication, would you recommend discussing with your physician, for those “personal summers”, related to hot flashes, etc?

    1. Hi, Darla. This is from a National Institutes of Health site: There is no direct evidence that the use of any herbal medicines can increase or decrease breast cancer risk. However, herbs that have estrogen-like actions raise concern. Several years ago, estrogen-like compounds from plants (phytoestrogens) were thought to have the potentially positive effect of acting like weak estrogens in the body. It was proposed that these weaker estrogens could block effect of estrogen in the body and possibly decrease breast cancer risk, as well as disease recurrence in breast cancer survivors. This idea changed when clinical studies showed proliferation (increased cell multiplication) in the breasts of women on diet high in soy phytoestrogens. To the surprise of the researchers conducting these studies, women on the high soy phytoestrogen diets had increased breast proliferation, an estrogen-like effect, which may be a preliminary step in cancer formation or could lead to the growth of latent cancer cells (see BCERF Fact Sheet #01, Phytoestrogens and Breast Cancer Risk). Herbal medicines with estrogen-like actions should not be used for long periods of time, especially by women with a past history or high risk of breast cancer.
      Some of the interactions of herbal medicines and drugs arise through stimulation or inhibition of the body’s metabolism of these drugs. Such an effect by a herbal medicine could potentially either increase or decrease the formation of cancer causing chemicals and, in theory, could lead to an increase or decrease in cancer risk in general. Interactions of herbal medicines with drugs used in cancer treatment have also been reported.

    2. In other words, we really don’t know because herbal medicines typically don’t go through the randomized, double blinded research process traditional medicines go through. Where concerns are likely to exist is in those herbal preps that have a significant estrogen content. Thanks for your question and for following Straight, No Chaser.