Protecting Your Breasts in Your 20s

[October is Breast Cancer awareness month, so CollegeCandy thought it was important to bring you all the information you need to protect yourself. Come back tomorrow for more important facts about prevention, therapy and other knowledge to keep you healthy.]
While breast cancer is uncommon in women under the age of 35, the risk of it increases as a woman grows older. There is also some evidence to suggest that young African American women are at greater risk for breast cancer than young Caucasian women. No matter who you are, you will be affected by breast cancer during the course of your life in one way or another.
Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself now.
Get In Touch Regularly
Mammography screening is the best available method to detect breast cancer, but due to the high levels of radiation, doctors don’t recommend them to people under the age of 40. Your next best bet? Clinical and self examination.
The American Cancer Society urges women in their 20s and 30s to have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as a part of their regular professional health exam. The most common signs of breast cancer are a lump in the breast, abnormal thickening of the breast, or a change in the shape or color of the breast. Keep in mind that finding a lump does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. If you notice something abnormal, talk to your doctor ASAP.
Other possible signs of breast cancer include:
• Any new, hard lump or thickening in any part of the breast
• Change in breast size or shape
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• Swelling, redness or warmth that does not go away
• Pain in one spot that does not vary with your monthly cycle
• Pulling in of the nipple
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly and appears only in one breast
• An itchy, sore or scaling area on one nipple
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Know Your Family History
Women with multiple family members with breast cancer may have an increased risk of carrying a breast cancer susceptibility gene. If your mom or sister has suffered from the disease, stay calm and get the facts. It is important to know how old they were at the time they were diagnosed. Depending the situation, you may want to undergo genetic counseling and genetic testing. But, of course, talk to your doctor before making any decisions.
Know Your Body
While research has shown that self breast exams play a small role in finding breast cancer, the real goal is for women to know their bodies. If you take time to know how your breasts look and feel normally, you’ll be quicker noticing any changes.
Young women should also track their menstrual cycles and physical development. Women who begin menstruating before age 12 are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. The more menstrual cycles a woman has over her lifetime, the more likely she is to get the disease. Find out when you had your first period and keep a record of your medical history. Knowledge of small details could be important if a problem develops later in life.
Eat Right
You’ve heard “eat your veggies” a million times, but when it comes to cancer diet really matters. In addition to their fiber content (which is beneficial for your heart and can help prevent other cancers, such as colon cancer), fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties and micronutrients that may help prevent some cancers. Eat leaner meats and limit red meat. Reducing your fat intake helps prevent other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, and may reduce your chance of developing breast and colon cancers.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently reported many health problems can be prevented by engaging in a moderate amount of physical activity on most days of the week. Strive to maintain the body weight recommended by a health professional, since excess fat may stimulate estrogen production.
For more information on risk factors, visit the American Cancer Society Website,, Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2006.

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