Continue with breast examinations even after breast cancer awareness month ends


The Preventive Health Department (PHD) says with October Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming to an end, even after the month has come and gone, women should continue to examine their breast and report anything unusual to their doctors.


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PHD commends the women of St. Maarten for maintaining good breast health and stresses that they should teach their daughters, sisters and female friends about it and to continue to do it on a monthly basis.

PHD says that women need to be more aware and that they should ask their family doctors to teach them how to do breast self exams. Women need to become aware of their own breast by knowing the normal texture, so if they find something unusual such as a hardened area, then that is a red flag where they should visit their family physician to have it investigated further.

Breast self exams should be done about a week after a menstruation ends. If you no longer have a period, do a breast self exam on the same day every month. Watch for any changes from month to month, such as fluid discharge from nipples; a sunken or pulled-in nipple, or a change in nipple angle. Most breast changes are not cancerous but must still be checked by your family physician.

The advice from PHD is the offices contribution to Breast Cancer Awareness and part of PHD’s annual Calendar of Health Observances. The aforementioned is to promote particular health issues or topics during a specific identified time of the year.

There are a number of risk factors for breast cancer. These include smoking and excessive alcohol intake. A woman who drinks two glasses of an alcoholic beverage a day, her risk of breast cancer goes up by 10 per cent, and if she has five drinks per day it goes up 30 per cent.

Obesity is another risk factor and is related to the fact that obese women produce more estrogen.

Young girls who start their menstruation earlier than age 11 and women who continue to menstruate up to age 55, those who do not breast feed their babies and those with a family history of breast cancer, are also at risk.

Women age 40 and older are advised to have mammograms done. A mammogram is a low dose x-ray examination of the breasts to look for abnormalities.

Women in mid-life, those 45 to 60 years of age, should have mammograms done every two years and those between the age of 40 and 50 once every year.

The PHD encourages women to do exercise on a regular basis, eat healthy by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and consume products that have antioxidants in them and avoid alcohol. By implementing the aforementioned, you lower your risk of developing breast cancer.