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    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | October 20th, 2019

    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    I was talking with a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She does not understand why women do not get their mammograms. As far as she is concerned – “mammograms save lives”. She was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, an early stage of breast cancer.  She was given treatment options and she chose to have a mastectomy. She did not require radiation or chemotherapy. She told me “I am happy that I went for my yearly mammogram”.

    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let us use this month to remind ourselves and those that we love on ways that we can decrease our risks of developing breast cancer as well as making sure if diagnosed, the cancer is found early.  

    How much do you know about breast cancer? Take the quiz.

    WHAT CAN ALL WOMEN DO TO LOWER THEIR RISK OF BREAST CANCER?

    1. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT – Obesity increases your risk of breast cancer when you become menopausal. Even a little bit of weight loss helps to decrease your risk.
    2. EXERCISE – There is evidence to show that women who get regular physical activity have a lower risk of breast cancer compared with women that do not exercise.
    3. LIMIT ALCOHOL – Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. If you have to drink then limit yourself to no more than 1 drink per day.
    4. AVOID TOBACCO – QUIT smoking.
    5. BE AWARE OF CHANGES IN YOUR BODY – BREAST SELF-AWARENESS – If you feel a lump in your breast, if you notice any bloody nipple discharge or a milky discharge unrelated to breastfeeding and/or breast pain unrelated to your menstrual cycle – SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR – this is regardless of your age and regardless of whether you had a normal mammogram or recent exam by your doctor. DO NOT IGNORE THESE ABNORMAL SYMPTOMS.
    6. KNOW YOUR FAMILY HISTORY – If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor. We know that some women have the gene mutation that puts them at risk for breast cancer. You might want to know if you have the mutation so that you can be informed of what to do to decrease your risks of breast cancer. This may include taking certain medications or deciding to have surgery on your breast before it becomes cancer.
    7. BREASTFEED IF YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY – Breastfeeding can decrease your risk of getting breast cancer. If you or if you have friends that have recently had babies, encourage them to breastfeed.
    8. GET YOUR SCREENING MAMMOGRAM – For most women this will be yearly starting at age 40, however, if you are in a high risk category, it might be younger. If you are younger, a breast ultrasound may be ordered as well because younger women have dense breasts. If you have any symptoms like a lump or pain, you should get a diagnostic mammogram (digital) or a digital breast tomosynthesis. This is different from a screening mammogram.
    9. MAKE SURE THAT YOU FOLLOW UP ON YOUR RESULTS – You should know your result within one week of a mammogram. If you do not get your result in a timely manner, call your doctor to get your result. If the result is abnormal, follow up with your doctor immediately, you might need additional testing or may be referred to a breast specialist.
    10. WHAT YOU EAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE – More and more research is coming out on the importance of diet in decreasing our risk of developing cancer in general. Eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Limit ‘fast foods”. Limit red and processed meats. Limit sugar sweetened drinks.

    For more information on breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

    To get free or low cost mammograms, visit the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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