It’s likely that you or someone you know has been affected by breast cancer. Studies indicate that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This staggering number makes breast cancer the second leading cause of death among women, and an important reason to pay attention to your breast health, not just in October…but every day of the year.
Women spend a great deal of time tending to the needs of others. Whether you work full time or are a stay-at-home-mom, there’s always something that needs your attention. If a child or family member gets sick, women are usually on the front lines, ready to take action and care for a loved one in need. If the PTA calls asking for an extra two-dozen cupcakes for an upcoming fundraiser, or your boss needs you to attend an after-hours event with a new client, it’s often difficult to “just say no”. Always with good intentions, women end up neglecting their own health and any warning signs that may go along with an illness because they are helping others. It’s important to know, breast cancer does have a higher success rate for a cure when caught early, so awareness is the first step to a healthy, cancer-free you.
It’s still unknown why people develop breast cancer, however experts do know that breast cancer occurs when cells start to develop abnormally. Dividing more quickly than healthy cells, a “lump” can form within the breast tissue, lymph nodes or other parts of your body. Although it’s more common for women to develop breast cancer, it can affect men as well. Obesity, age, sedentary life, and a family history of breast cancer increase the risk for developing breast cancer. More recently, it’s been discovered that certain genetic gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 also increases likelihood. Unfortunately these same genes can also increase the risk of other cancers, such as ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing may be considered if there’s a family history of breast cancer. Simple blood or saliva tests are used to identify any inherited mutations in BRCA or other genes.
Because a new lump or mass is the most common sign of breast cancer, it’s important to be aware of changes to your body. Regular mammogram screenings have decreased the number of advanced breast cancers, making it an important appointment to make when scheduling your well visits. Fifteen percent of breast cancers cannot be detected on mammograms, making self-exams another key component of your wellness routine.
Other breast cancer symptoms to watch for include breast size changes, swelling, skin irritation, breast or nipple pain, or inverted nipples, puckering of the breast skin or discharge from the breasts that is not related to child rearing. Breast cancer treatment has come a long way as more and more research and funds are invested into identifying the cause of breast cancer. As women are becoming more in tune with their bodies, they are learning the importance of putting themselves first.
It’s important to take your health seriously, and scheduling regular well visits offers optimum health benefits that aren’t just essential for your quality of life, but for your family as well.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient’s individual needs with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs.
Recommendations about women’s health screening have changed in recent years, and often-conflicting information can lead to confusion. For instance, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, not every woman needs an annual screening for cervical cancer, known as a Pap test. Authorities on breast cancer also vary on their recommendations for mammograms, but it is important to listen to your body and be proactive—no matter what the guidelines may say.
What hasn’t changed, however, is an across-the-board recommendation for annual well woman exams. In fact, annual well woman exams are considered routine preventive care as outlined by the Affordable Care Act.
Even if a Pap test is not performed, an annual pelvic exam allows your doctor to check your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum, ovaries, and pelvis, comparing each part of the pelvis with the results from the previous year’s exam. As a woman enters various phases of the hormonal cycle in her life, there will be changes in a woman’s anatomy. Regular pelvic exams help to track these changes and give patients opportunities to discuss any concerns with her physician.
Clinical Breast Exams
A clinical breast exam (CBE) is part of a well woman visit, which offers an opportunity to discuss a personal schedule for mammogram screenings. Many health authorities now recommend biennial (every two years) mammogram screenings for women ages 50-74. Other equally reliable authorities continue to recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing beyond age 74.
**It is essential to remember that the best defense against breast cancer is a good offense. Monthly breast self-exams should be done in-between clinical breast exams. The biggest reason for non-compliance in doing monthly breast self-exams is, “I don’t know what I am feeling for.” This is precisely why a woman should make this part of her monthly routine. The more familiar a woman is with the findings in her breast during self-exams, the more she will know what is normal and what is not. With practice, each month will become easier.
Colorectal cancer screening guidelines, as well as most patients’ reluctance to get screened, have remained relatively stable over the years.
The stigma of the prep for the colonoscopy and the sensitive nature of the procedure can quickly cause undue stress and anxiety.
Most colon cancers arise from a single polyp. A colonoscopy can detect and treat the polyp during the procedure itself. But often if the polyp is not removed, this can and often does lead to colon cancer. Isn’t it better to endure a few hours of discomfort for the prep and procedure of a colonoscopy rather than enduring a removal of part of the colon for a treatable colon cancer?
A Discussion About Overall Health
An annual well visit also focuses on general overall health and maintains an ongoing discussion between you and your doctor about healthy lifestyle choices, reducing or eliminating health risks, weight concerns and healthy aging (inside and out). Screenings that facilitate these discussions include full in-depth discussions on physical, emotional, psychological and environmental stressors. A detailed blood work and physical exam with blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) screenings and body fat analysis will help identify the source of symptoms. A symptom is your body’s way of talking with you. DON’T IGNORE THESE WARNING SIGNS!
As your well woman exam appointment approaches, you might consider other issues that affect your overall health and be prepared to cover these areas with your doctor, including:
- Contraceptive counseling
- Tobacco, alcohol or drug use
- Depression screening
- Vaccines and immunizations
- HIV screening
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening
View your annual well woman exam as an opportunity to partner with your doctor on the business of your good health. The active role you take in your day-to-day health is encouraged and supported by your doctor, and your well woman visit is the best way to review and fine-tune your efforts.
For more information on well woman exams or to schedule an appointment, please CONTACT our office today! You can also learn more by connecting with Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.