Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening
- TV personality Faye Winter, 28, discovered a lump on her breast earlier this year and grew concerned that she might have breast cancer.
- Winter, who was a finalist on “Love Island,” has since admitted to keeping her breast cancer scare hidden after her lump discovery and is now using her story to spread awareness for the disease and inspire others to do breast self-exams.
- Breast self-exams (BSE) are a simple yet important self-check method that involves observing and feeling the breasts for any changes or abnormalities.
- While they are not a replacement for professional clinical exams or mammograms, BSE can serve as an essential first step in monitoring breast health and detecting any potential concerns, SurvivorNet’s experts explain.
- The medical community has a broad consensus that women have annual mammograms between the ages of 45 and 54. However, an independent panel of experts called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is saying that women should start getting mammograms every other year at the age of 40, suggesting that this lowered the age for breast cancer screening could save 19% more lives.
Winter, who was a finalist on “Love Island” and was a contestant on Celebrity MasterChef, has since admitted to keeping her breast cancer scare hidden after her lump discovery and is now using her story to breast cancer spread awareness.
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She continued, “And now it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month I think it’s so important that people are checking. My Instagram is normally me looking glam and then me on dog walks, which I absolutely love, and then to actually post a very raw image, it is really hard.
“But, actually, if I can get one person to check which I already know as so many people have messaged me and said they already have, I’ve done my job that’s what I’m here to do.”
Winter, whose claim to fame comes from her role on the love-filled reality show “Love Island,” featuring a group of single men and women searching for romance, aspires to promote “goodness in the world,” while trying to raise awareness.
Earlier this month, on October 7, Winter took to her Instagram page to raise awareness of the disease she feared she had.
Writing alongside a photo of herself in what appears to be a doctor’s waiting room, she said, “October is a month to spread awareness for breast cancer, words we hope that none of us will hear in our life time however 1 in 8 of us unfortunately will.”
She continued, “The words are frightening, devastating and you will feel completely over whelmed. The positive thoughts of ‘it will be nothing’ with the voice in the back of your head saying ‘what if’. I was so lucky back in June to be given the all clear on a lump I had found a couple of months prior and so many will also be given good news but it doesn’t make those few weeks or months any easier.
“Checking our breasts and pecks is essential. It’s okay to be nervous and scared but don’t put it off and don’t shy away because getting it checked is the first step to getting the all clear.”
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Winter explains how the photo was taken as she waited with her supportive mother, prior to her undergoing scans.
The reality TV star wrote, “Here I was sat with my mum, hadn’t slept for days before going in for my scans thinking ‘what else could go wrong this year’ but yet putting in to perspective how small those issues were, on top of trying to put on a brave face. I felt like everything was falling apart and I just needed some good news, I’m so lucky I had such amazing family, friends and Bonnie around me checking in and supporting me in such a strange time.”
“I wasn’t sure on sharing my little story to begin with because 1 it seemed so tiny in comparison to others and 2 because I had so much going on I wanted to sweep it under the carpet, however as soon as I shared the amount of messages I got from you saying you’d checked was incredible and I’m so glad I did,” she added. “Now by the time you’ve read this you could of checked yours! So do it now.”
Expert Resources On Breast Cancer
- Breast Reconstruction: Regaining Your Sense of Self
- Getting to Know Your Breasts with Self-Exams
- 10 Percent of All Women Get Called Back For Further Testing After A Mammogram — Howard Stern’s Cat-rescuing Wife, Beth, Is One of Them
- “What Do You Mean, I Have ‘Calcifications’ in My Breast?”: Understanding Why Calcium Deposits Can Show Up on A Mammogram
- 6 Common Excuses for Skipping a Mammogram That You Need to Stop Using!
- How to Avoid False Positive Cancer Results in Women With Dense Breasts: Ultrasounds Used in Addition To Mammograms
In another post to her Instagram story, shared in June, Winter described to her fans how she found the lump in her breast
She explained to be simply “enjoying time in the sun with her girlfriends” when she noticed the lump.
“I was putting my sunscreen on and I felt it. ‘Oooh, what is she?'” she recalled. “I found a little lump.”
She had a mammogram and ultrasound dont to make sure the lump was “nothing sinister.”
All About Breast Self-Exams
Breast self-exams (BSE), which Faye Winter us urging other women to do, are a simple yet important self-check method that involves observing and feeling the breasts for any changes or abnormalities.
While they are not a replacement for professional clinical exams or mammograms, BSE can serve as an essential first step in monitoring breast health and detecting any potential concerns, SurvivorNet’s experts explain.
These type of exams play a crucial role in early detection and diagnosis of potential breast conditions, including breast cancer. By performing regular self-examinations, you become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, making it easier to identify any unusual changes. Early detection of breast cancer can vastly improve treatment outcomes and the chances of successful recovery.
While BSE alone isn’t a guarantee for early breast cancer diagnosis, it serves as a supplementary tool to other screening methods, such as clinical breast exams and mammography.
Here are some key reasons why breast self-exams are important:
- Familiarization with your breasts: Regular BSE helps you understand how your breasts normally look and feel. This knowledge makes it easier to identify changes or abnormalities as they occur.
- Early detection: In some cases, a breast self-exam might lead to the discovery of a lump or other change that could indicate breast cancer or another noncancerous condition. The earlier a problem is identified, the better the chances for successful treatment.
- Empowerment: Taking control of your breast health by performing regular self-exams can empower you and foster a sense of awareness, responsibility, and confidence regarding your well-being.
- Routine health monitoring: Incorporating BSE into your monthly self-care routine helps establish a consistent health-monitoring practice, making it more likely that you will notice any unexpected changes.
It’s important to remember that BSE should never replace professional clinical exams or mammograms. Instead, view these self-exams as a complementary practice to maintain optimum breast health and ensure early detection in case an issue arises. Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if you notice any changes or abnormalities during your self-examination.
How To Perform Breast Self-Exams
The optimal time to perform a BSE is about a week after the beginning of your menstrual cycle when your breasts are less tender and swollen. If you don’t menstruate, choose a consistent day every month to perform the exam.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing a breast self-exam:
- Observe in the mirror: Stand in front of a mirror, undressed from the waist up, with your arms relaxed at your sides. Examine your breasts and nipples for changes in size, shape, or color. Look for any dimpling, puckering, or redness on the skin. Then, raise your arms overhead and examine your breasts from all angles, including with your hands on your hips.
- Palpate while standing: While standing or sitting, use the pads of your three middle fingers to gently press on your breast tissue, moving in small circular motions. Cover your entire breast, from the collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Apply light, medium, and firm pressure as you examine each area, feeling for any changes or lumps.
- Examine your nipples: Gently squeeze your nipple between your thumb and index finger. Check for any discharge, and if present, note the color and consistency. Make sure to examine both breasts.
- Palpate while lying down: Lie down flat on your back with a folded towel or small pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head. With your left hand, follow the same palpation process as in step 2, covering the entire breast area. Repeat this process for your left breast, placing a towel or pillow under your left shoulder and switching hands.
Remember, the goal of a breast self-exam is to familiarize yourself with the normal appearance and feel of your breasts. This familiarity will make it easier to detect any changes that may occur, allowing you to take prompt action and consult a doctor if necessary.
Also keep in mind that some changes are normal and may not indicate a serious issue, but it’s always better to be proactive and discuss any concerns with a healthcare professional.
You should consult with your doctor if you notice a new lump, nipple changes, dimpling or puckering in breast appearance, unusual breast or nipple pain, or redness/swelling of the breasts.
When to Screen for Breast Cancer
The medical community has a broad consensus that women have annual mammograms between the ages of 45 and 54. However, an independent panel of experts called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is saying that women should start getting mammograms every other year at the age of 40, suggesting that this lowered the age for breast cancer screening could save 19% more lives.
WATCH: SurvivorNet expert, oncologist Dr. Ann Partridge discusses the challenges of diagnosing and treating treating aggressive breast cancers in young women.
For women aged 55 and older, the American Cancer Society recommends getting a mammogram every other year. However, women in this age group who want added reassurance can still get annual mammograms.
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer, have dense breasts, have a genetic mutation known to increase the risk of breast cancer, such as a BRCA gene mutation, or a medical history, including chest radiation therapy before age 30, are considered at higher risk for breast cancer.
WATCH: Understanding the BRCA gene mutation.
Experiencing menstruation at an early age (before 12) or having dense breasts can also put you into a high-risk category. If you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, you should begin screening earlier.
Breast density is determined through mammograms. However, women with dense breasts are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer because dense breast tissue can mask potential cancer during screening. 3D mammograms, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and molecular breast imaging are options for women with dense breasts for a more precise screening. It is important to ask your doctor about your breast density and cancer risk.
Family History & Breast Cancer Risk
Although breast cancer can happen to anyone, certain factors can increase a person’s risk of getting the disease. The known risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Older age
- Having a gene mutation such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Added exposure to estrogen
- Having children after the age of 30
- Exposure to radiation early in life
- Family history of the disease
Different types of genetic testing can help people with a family history of cancer better ascertain their cancer risks. Your doctor will discuss your family history of cancer with you in the context of your type of tumor and your age at diagnosis. Hereditary genetic testing is usually done with a blood or saliva test.
WATCH: Understanding genetic testing for breast cancer.
About ten percent of breast cancers are hereditary, says Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, Director of the High-Risk Cancer Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.
“We encourage only those with a family history to get [genetic testing],” Dr. Ginsburg tells SurvivorNet. “I would say that if you have anyone in your family diagnosed with a rare cancer.
“Or if you have a strong family history of one or two kinds of cancer, particularly breast and ovarian, but also colon, rectal, uterine, and ovarian cancer, that goes together in another cancer syndrome called the Lynch Syndrome,” Dr. Ginsburg adds.
The second test involves the genetic sequencing of your tumor if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer by this point. These genetic changes can be inherited, but most arise during a person’s lifetime. This process usually involves examining a biopsy or surgical specimen of your tumor. This testing can lead to decisions on drugs that might work against your cancer.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff