Five things to do for yourself during breast cancer awareness month.
If you are over 40 and it’s time for your mammogram, don’t wait. Schedule an appointment. Or make it easy on yourself. Every Wednesday in October, the UI Department of Radiology is offering a walk-in mammography clinic from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Held at two locations – UI Breast Imaging at UI Hospitals and Clinics and at UI Health Care Iowa River Landing in Coralville – these screenings don’t require a scheduled appointment. Most insurance is accepted.
The UI program offers 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) and other tools such as whole breast ultrasound and breast MRI for women who have particularly dense breast tissue that makes it difficult for physicians to spot tumors.
UI is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Center, a quality program of the American College of Surgeons.
Learn if you are dense.
Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect breast cancer. Dense breasts, those with less fat and more connective tissue, make it harder to detect a tumor with mammography. If you have dense breasts, an MRI or ultrasound may be needed in addition to 3D mammography. How do you know if your breasts are dense? A radiologist can tell with 3D mammography. Make sure to talk to your doctor about your breast density so you know what type of imaging technology will be best to detect a breast cancer tumor for you.
Learn how to lower your risk for breast cancer.
Only 15-20 percent of breast cancer patients have a family history. This means that you have some control of your risk factors for breast cancer. You can reduce your risk by doing four things.
Stay a healthy weight. Obesity carries a higher risk for breast cancer. If you are at a healthy weight, stay there. If you need to lose some weight, here’s some motivation there is evidence that women who lose weight may lower their breast cancer risk. Learn what is a healthy weight for you with this BMI calculator.
Get regular activity. As little as 75-150 minutes of brisk walking has been shown to lower your risk.
Limit alcohol. Women who have two or more alcoholic drinks a day have a greater risk of breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink at all.
You can learn about your breast cancer risk by taking a brief online risk assessment from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.
Know what to do if you get breast cancer.
Being told you have cancer can be scary and stressful. After the shock wears off it is important to take an active role in your health.
Get the facts. Learn what you can about breast cancer. Talk to your doctor. Need a list of questions to ask your doctor? The American Cancer Society has a list that can get you started on their web site.
Bring a friend to appointments. A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Bringing someone with you to appointments gives you another set of ears to make sure that what you hear is correct. If you get home and are confused, don’t hesitate to call your doctor back.
Learn about your choices. Every day, there are new discoveries about cancer. Not all cancers are the same and not all doctors and cancer centers are the same. Learn how different cancer centers work and what they offer. At UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, doctors specialize in one or two types of cancer. A breast cancer doctor only sees breast cancer patients. They also take a patient’s case to a team called a Multidisciplinary Oncology Group (MOG) to review cases with other breast cancer experts to make sure they are offering the best treatment option.
Speak up for yourself. Take an active role in your cancer fight. Tell your medical team if something is bothering you. Work with them on helping you get the best care possible. In the end, this is about you. And only you know what is best for you.
Share your story.
Because of better treatments and better screening, the United States has reduced the number of deaths from breast cancer by 2.2 percent every year since 1990 – an overall 28 percent decline. But we can do better. Take control of your health and encourage your friends to do the same. Tell them to get screened, learn about their breast density, and reduce their risk factors. Share your story with us on our Facebook page, and we will tweet it and encourage others.