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To continue our recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are a few other FAQ.  We must be vigilant about breast cancer year round, not just in October, and something that is often overlooked is the self-exam.  If you do not know how to do a proper self-exam, please be sure to talk to your doctor.

Can men develop breast cancer?  Yes.  In fact, about 2,190 men will develop breast cancer each year.  The percentage of men who develop breast cancer is small compared to the 1 in 8 women who may be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but it still happens.  Men have a higher mortality rate, because they do not regularly check for signs of breast cancer.  They should complete breast self-exams periodically and report changes to their doctor in a timely manner.  Men should be on the lookout for a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.

How often should I self-screen for breast cancer and when?  You should ideally conduct a breast self-exam once a month.  For women, you should perform breast self-exams at least 7 days after your menstrual period, since this is when your breasts are less tender and lumpy.  If you no longer menstruate, you can conduct your breast self-check on the first day of each month to keep things consistent.  When conducting your self-check, be on the lookout for changes in breast tissue, including size, dimpling, puckering, redness, or scaliness of the breast or nipple area.  Also, pay attention to any inversion of the nipple or secretions from the nipple.

Are mammograms painful?  Mammography can be a little uncomfortable but only for a brief period.  If you have sensitive breasts, be sure to schedule your mammogram a week after your menstrual cycle so that breasts are less tender.  

Does a family history of breast cancer put you at higher risk for developing breast cancer?  Women who have family members whom have had breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.  If you do have a family history of breast cancer, be sure to regularly schedule some form of diagnostic breast imaging beginning 10 years before the age of your closest relative’s diagnosis.  Regardless of family history, be sure to get breast exams during your annual doctor’s visits and to conduct monthly breasts self-checks.

GreenLite Note: If you are seeing a weight management doctor, please be sure to mention any family history of breast cancer.  It is important to understand the facts about excess weight and breast cancer.  If you are not currently seeing a weight management doctor, please discuss with your primary care physician.

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