Helpful Women’s Health Tips in Honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Women’s Health Tips

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and women around the country are encouraged to take a closer look at their overall health. 

In this blog, we honor National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with some helpful women’s health tips. 

Whether you’re due for a mammogram or you need obstetrical or gynecological care, Western Missouri Medical Center’s expert team of women’s health physicians is ready to create a personalized care plan tailored to your needs. Our OB/GYNs have experience with a variety of women’s health needs, including sexual health, contraception, pregnancy and delivery, menopause, and all cancers that specifically affect women. 

Women’s Health Tip #1: Keep Up With Your Checkups and Screenings

Early detection is crucial for breast cancer prevention and other women’s health issues. The best way to stay on top of these possible problems is to keep up with your yearly health checkups and screenings. 

No matter your age or how well you feel, yearly checkups and screenings are an integral part of the fight against breast cancer. 

Importance of early detection

Certain signs and symptoms are early indicators of breast cancer, but many early symptoms are difficult to detect on your own. With routine yearly screenings, such as mammograms for women who are 40-years old or older, your doctor can catch early indicators of breast cancer and address the issue with further testing. 

Different kinds of mammograms

A mammogram is a test where your doctor takes an X-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms are excellent at detecting cancer early, so they are a crucial part of any women’s health plan. 

There are actually two different types of mammograms – screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms. Annual screening mammograms are routinely given to women who are 40-years old or older, even if they have no apparent symptoms. 

Diagnostic mammograms are the follow-up after suspicious results from a screening mammogram, or other signs of breast cancer, have alerted your physician. 

Women’s Health Tip #2: Understand the Risk Factors

It’s difficult to narrow down just one cause of breast cancer. In fact, many studies have indicated that it’s a combination of factors that lead to breast cancer development. The most common factor is age, but that’s not the only risk factor to consider. Some risk factors can be changed as well, while others are a natural part of your body. A few breast cancer risk factors you can’t change include:

Age

The American Cancer Society found that nearly 2 out of 3 cases of invasive breast cancer are found in women 55 years or older. Age is actually the greatest risk factor for breast cancer. This is why doctors recommend women age 40 or older schedule annual breast cancer screenings. 

Reproductive History

Longer exposure to hormones produced by the ovaries is another risk factor for breast cancer. Reproductive factors such as early-onset menstruation and late-onset menopause can be a red flag for breast cancer development. Other factors like longer duration of breastfeeding and number of children carried to full term may actually decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. 

Family History of Breast Cancer

Women with a history of breast cancer in their family from their first-degree relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) or multiple family members on either the mother’s or father’s side of the family are more likely to develop breast cancer. 

Preventable risk factors

While some breast cancer risk factors are uncontrollable, there are many factors that you can do something about. These preventable risk factors include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Excess weight or obesity after menopause
  • Alcohol or tobacco use

Women’s Health Tip #3: Know the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Since early detection is so important, yearly mammograms or other screenings might come too late if other signs and symptoms of breast cancer arise. The most common sign of breast cancer development is a new lump or mass in the breast, but there are other early indicators. These symptoms include:

  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Swelling of part or all of the breast
  • Nipple retraction
  • Changes to the skin on your breast (redness, dry skin, flaking, etc.)
  • Discharge from your nipple other than breast milk
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or collar bone

All of these symptoms could be early indicators of breast cancer or possibly other medical issues. That’s why we encourage women to reach out to a qualified women’s health doctor when experiencing any of these symptoms. 

If you’re experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it’s never too early to reach out to a women’s health specialist near you for further testing. 

Women’s Health Tip #4: Take Care of Your Body

Screenings and annual tests are a great way to catch breast cancer and other medical issues early, but they aren’t an effective way to prevent medical problems before they start. That’s why one of our top health tips for women is to take proper care of your body. Some ways to help prevent breast cancer include:

  • Limit alcohol use: Studies consistently show that alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer development in women. Alcohol use increases estrogen levels and other hormones associated with hormone-receptive breast cancers, and it increases breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells. Alcohol use in a limited capacity is acceptable, but even small amounts can increase risk. 
  • Avoid tobacco use: Tobacco use is linked to various health issues, including breast cancer and even HPV-related disease, the virus that causes most cervical cancer. 
  • Remain physically active and at a healthy weight: These two tips go hand-in-hand. An active lifestyle helps you maintain a healthy weight, which encourages your body to function normally. Having more fat tissues can increase your chances of developing breast cancer, which makes obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight all the more important. A lot of people have barriers to regular exercise like a previous injury, low back pain, or asthma. Any activity outside of their normal day-to-day life is beneficial. It is important to find something that they enjoy doing or look forward to rather than just another chore on life’s never-ending list. If you’re overweight and need tips for weight loss, our medical weight loss professionals can provide guidance. 
  • Breastfeed: There are many benefits to breastfeeding, but did you know breast cancer prevention is one of them? Studies show that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Other factors like the number of children carried to full term can also decrease your risk of breast cancer development. 
  • Schedule annual checkups: According to Dr. Ashley Alumbaugh, one of our experienced and professional Obstetrics/Gynecology providers at WMMC, women should be seen annually for wellness visits to complete all appropriate screenings and risk assessments. We recommend women over 40-years old schedule annual mammograms. Cervical cancer screening is also an important test that women should start at age 21. Most women don’t need an actual pap smear every year but should have a yearly exam. All sexually active women should consider screening for sexually transmitted infections at least annually.

Women’s Health Tip #5: Find a trusted healthcare partner to guide you through your health journey

When it comes to your health, regular visits to a trusted OB/GYN or women’s health specialist are crucial. An OB/GYN can help guide you through a spectrum of women’s health issues, including: 

  • Sexual health
  • Contraception
  • Care throughout pregnancy
  • Delivery and the post-partum period
  • Wellness visits
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal menses
  • Menopause
  • Post-menopausal issues
  • And more

The team of obstetricians and gynecologists at WMMC are experts in all aspects of women’s health. We are prepared to treat any issues you may face and can help develop a plan for living a healthier lifestyle. 

If you do develop breast cancer or any other women-specific cancers, the newly-opened Western Missouri Cancer Center is ready to help you in the fight. Dr. Jaswinder Singh leads a team of highly skilled oncology specialists who can tackle a variety of cancer diagnoses, all with the professional service and individual care patients expect from WMMC.

Come to Western Missouri Medical Center for all your women’s health needs

Everyone needs a trusted partner for healthcare throughout their life. WMMC has you covered with the best women’s healthcare in the western Missouri area. Our team of professional obstetricians and gynecologists will guide you through all the healthcare twists and turns throughout your life, from contraception to pregnancy to menopause and beyond. 

Make us your preferred regional healthcare provider. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and see how WMMC goes above and beyond for all of our patients in Warrensburg and west central Missouri.