Today’s post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and is written by Amy Thompson, Breast Nurse Navigator. Amy was born and raised in Reno and is the proud mama of an eight-year-old energetic boy who is a total soccer maniac and has two “fur kids” Enzo & Max. She feels lucky to be married to an amazing husband from “Down Under” (yes, he does have an Aussie accent), who is her biggest fan. As a Registered Nurse and Breast Nurse Navigator, she is humbled to work with women (and men) with breast cancer every day. She feels honored to be a part of their journey to provide support and education, and it is her hope to make even a small difference in the lives of her patients. Attempting to balance a full-time job, motherhood, being a wife and all the other goodies that go along with that, she enjoys time with her friends & family, being a taxi to soccer practice and games, massages, Zumba (when she makes time) and anything crafty. She has always loved writing, so this blog is a pretty big deal for her too ;)!
They’ve been called, “jugs,” “tatas,” “peaks,” “fun bags,” “second base,” “rack” and numerous other names, but I’d like to add “breast friends” to the list. As we honor our “breast friends” in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we need to recognize that as moms, friends, daughters and wives, there is a sisterhood created just by being a woman; a sisterhood that always remains, yet somehow is peaked, (pardon the pun) during October when we turn our attention to breast cancer awareness.
It is hard to ignore the charity events, community races and the hallmark pink ribbon when October rolls around. Not many people like to talk about breast cancer, yet with approximately one in eight women being diagnosed on average in her lifetime, it is definitely worth acknowledging. It is worth talking about because early detection saves lives and we know that early detection comes in the form of self awareness and yearly mammograms. In acknowledgment of the sisterhood of being a woman and honoring our “breast friends,” I want to point out some things that we can do as moms to help ourselves and the women in our lives to take a stand against this disease.
For one thing, do your monthly breast self exams. It is one of the simplest ways to get involved in your own care. Getting to be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts will help you to know if there are any changes you need to report to your physician. The best time to do a breast self exam is once a month about a week after your period ends. Notice any new lumps or bumps. Pay attention to the outward appearance of your breasts as well. For some of us, it is normal for one breast to be a little smaller than the other, but if that is not normal for you, it should be discussed with your physician. Keep an eye out for any unusual skin changes including rashes, dimpling, skin puckering or redness that doesn’t subside, or nipple discharge or inversion that is not normal for your body. Some women naturally have inverted nipples, so this would not be considered an abnormal change for them; however, if you have never had nipple inversion, and you suddenly realize that you do, you need to bring that to your physician’s attention. Overall, the take home message is to tell your physician if the look and/or feel of your breast(s) changes.
Secondly, get your yearly mammograms and encourage the women in your life to do the same. The current guideline for yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 for average risk women and continue for as long as a woman is in good health.
Prevention is another component that is very important to breast health. The American Cancer Society suggests that incorporating better nutrition habits, daily exercise, limited alcohol intake and not smoking are all modifiable risk factors in which we can control. We also know that obesity increases our risk of breast cancer due to the link between fat cells and estrogen. Fat cells can produce and store estrogen, increasing estrogen exposure in obese women, which can fuel estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. It only makes sense that increasing daily exercise and making healthy dietary changes can decrease obesity, thereby decreasing the risk of breast cancer.
Finally, here’s where they become “baby’s breast friends.” Breastfeeding has been linked to a protective action against breast cancer. Now be cautioned, this does NOT mean that ALL women who breastfeed will NEVER develop breast cancer, nor does it mean that women who do not or cannot breastfeed will get cancer. What it does mean is that as women, we have a unique ability to produce milk to feed our newborns which is a miraculous way to provide sustenance to our offspring, to bond and to nurture. With this gift comes the added knowledge that this very natural process can actually provide us with an extra layer of support against breast cancer. Research continues to evolve, but what researchers have found is that women who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed their babies for one year (cumulative length of time breastfeeding all children) are slightly less likely to develop breast cancer than those women who did not breastfeed. Women who breastfeed for a two year cumulative period have potentially twice the protection as women who breastfeed for one year. The protective benefit is related to the decreased exposure to estrogen during breaks from menstruation, such as those that occur when breastfeeding.
So, not only is the month of October dedicated to breast cancer awareness, but the entire year should be about taking care of your “breast friends.” Follow the guidelines of yearly mammograms after the age of 40, be aware of your body and take the necessary steps to be healthier. Spend time with your family and friends, laugh, love and live to the fullest. Hug your kids. Take small moments away from being a mom to reconnect with the “you” you were before your kiddos. And if applicable, breastfeed your baby, knowing now, that there is even more benefit to this precious gift of motherhood.