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5 Breast Health Tips from an OBGYN
When it comes to breast cancer, ignorance is not bliss. As women, it is important for us to be proactive about our breast health and care. In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Bar Method has partnered with board certified OBGYN Beth Carewe at Premier Integrated OBGYN in Denver, Colorado to bring you five breast health tips. Keep reading & start putting some of these ideas into practice today:
Support is key!
Being a woman is not easy for a host of reasons! One of those reasons is breast pain – ouch!! If you have breast pain, try to track where the pain is and when in happens (is it related to your menstrual cycle or specific activities, such as exercise?). There are different causes, if your pain occurs at certain times of the month or only on one side.
A great first step if you have breast pain is to find the right kind of bra that is supportive, especially based on the kind of activity you are doing. Many stores will offer bra fittings and I highly recommend utilizing this service to determine the right type of bra based on you – based on your measurements, but also what style of bra makes you feel and look your best.
When it comes to exercise, choose a bra that is supportive, based on the type of exercise you are going to be doing. You may not need as much compression for a low impact exercise, like most Bar Method classes, as you would for a high impact exercise, like running. And, consider that you may want a more supportive bra, if you are doing more fast-paced classes, like Bar Move.
Exercise & physical activity
Did you know that fat cells in our body produce estrogen and an excess of this hormone has been linked to cancers, including breast cancer? Exercise can reduce these fat cells and has been thought to reduce the risk of breast disease and breast cancer. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread out throughout the week. It is also recommended to do strength training at least 2 days per week.
Pain relievers & lifestyle choices
Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can also help with breast pain.
You can also try to avoid caffeine or use a supplements such as Vitamin D or Evening Primrose Oil, as these have been credited with improving breast pain in some women. However, women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or nursing should not use Evening Primrose Oil and should consult with their provider about their concerns.
Try the home remedies for 2-3 weeks to see if they improve your pain. If the pain persists or if you have other changes in your breasts, such as lumps, nipple discharge or changes in the skin on your breasts, make an appointment with your provider.
Avoid excessive alcohol. Drinking alcohol, even low-moderate amounts, has been shown to increase risk of breast cancer. The recommendation for women is to limit alcohol intake to one drink per day, measured as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Stop smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke has been linked with a number of diseases, including breast cancer. The American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society have resources with professional support and advice to help you quit smoking. It is not easy to do, but it will be worth it!
Self-exams and what to do if you find something
Although it was a common recommendation to encourage women to perform breast exams, a regular examination of their breasts in a systematic way (does anybody remember the cards they used to give women to put in their showers?), this is no longer the case. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends breast awareness, which means noting any changes to the breasts, such as breast lumps, nipple discharge or changes in the skin of the breasts.
There are many conditions that can lead to breast lumps and other breast changes that are not cancer or dangerous and will often go away on their own. But, a majority of breast cancers in women are detected by the patient herself, so stay vigilant to changes in your body and bring these to the attention of your provider.
When and how often should you get a mammogram?
A very important part of breast health is making sure you are completing the recommended screening for breast cancer; one in 8 women will develop breast cancer by age 75. This screening occurs with a mammogram, which uses x-ray to view the breasts. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women are offered breast cancer screening with mammograms, starting at 40 years old and have screening every 1 to 2 years, until at least age 75.
Keep in mind, there is a great deal of debate among providers regarding when to start, and how often to screen for breast cancer. Your medical history, family history and genetic testing results can also have an impact on determining the right testing for you. I recommend discussing breast cancer screening with your provider and making a plan based on your specific clinical situation.
About the Author
Beth Carewe is a board certified OBGYN practicing at Premier Integrated OBGYN in Denver, Colorado. She is accepting new patients and provides expert care for women of all ages. She can be reached at www.premierobgyndenver.com or by calling (303) 393-4330
1 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Human Services: https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/
2 UpToDate “Breast Pain” Golson MD MBA FACS, Mehra, Last updated May 15, 2018
3 UpToDate “Overview of the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption” https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-the-risks-and-benefits-of-alcohol-consumption?sectionName=Breast%20cancer&search=smoking%20breast%20cancer&topicRef=792&anchor=H10&source=see_link#H30
4 Smoking and Breast Cancer, BreastCancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/smoking
5 ACOG Practice Bulletin 179 July 2017, Risk Assessment and Breast Cancer Screening in Average Risk Women: https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Practice-Bulletins/Committee-on-Practice-Bulletins-Gynecology/Breast-Cancer-Risk-Assessment-and-Screening-in-Average-Risk-Women
6 ACOG Practice Bulletin 179 July 2017, Risk Assessment and Breast Cancer Screening in Average Risk Women: https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Practice-Bulletins/Committee-on-Practice-Bulletins-Gynecology/Breast-Cancer-Risk-Assessment-and-Screening-in-Average-Risk-Women
8 Compare the recommendations from ACOG to those of the USPSTF (United States Preventative Task force) to the American Cancer Society: