Healthspek Blog

October 21, 2015

Five Things You Should Know During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to think about how to educated yourself on breast cancer and know your risks for the disease that affects one in eight women in the United States.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder to take an active approach to healthcare by being involved in your medical decisions and taking preventative measures to ensure that you are as healthy as you can be.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. The key to preventing death by breast cancer is early detection.

According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate is 100 percent. Follow these five tips for taking a proactive approach to your breast health:

  1. Know Your Risk. Assessing your personal risk of developing breast cancer is the first step in creating a plan for early diagnosis. Women who are considered high-risk may be recommended for an annual MRI in addition to a screening mammogram.

Risk factors include: family history (especially a mother or sister), age (2/3 breast cancers are found in women 55 or older), pregnancy history (women who haven’t had a full-term pregnancy or had their first child after the age of 30 have a higher risk than women who gave birth before age 30), menstruation history (women who start menstruating younger than age 12 have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life), drinking alcohol, lack of exercise and smoking.

Keeping track of your personal health records with tools such as Healthspek can help you keep up with family history and previous tests.

Go to to learn more about setting up your free, personal electronic health record.

  1. Know The Symptoms. Knowing the symptoms of breast cancer helps you know when a change in your body may call for a trip to the doctor.

Some symptoms include: skin irritation, nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, nipple discharge, breast pain or swelling or a lump around the collarbone or under the arm

  1. Breast Self-Exams. Performing a monthly breast self-exam helps you familiarize yourself with your body so you know when you may be experiencing the symptoms of breast cancer.

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” - Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

Click here for information on how to perform a breast-self exam and don’t forget to alert your doctor if you think you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of breast cancer.

  1. Regular Mammograms. Mammograms detect tumors before they can be felt by a self-exam, so it is important to get mammograms in addition to routinely checking yourself for lumps and abnormalities.

According to the National Breast Cancer website, women 40 and older should have a mammogram every one to two years. If you are younger than 40 but have a family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor when you should begin having mammograms.

If you’re worried about the results: Think about taking a friend or family member with you, or even getting your exams done at the same time. Another solution to this common fear is asking your doctor if you can get your results while you wait so that you can address any concerns immediately upon receiving them.

If you’re worried about the cost: The Centers for Disease Control offers an online search tool for women seeking low-cost screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

  1. Clinical Breast Exam (CBE). Healthcare professionals are trained to recognize warning signs that you may not catch.

A clinical breast exam is just like a self-exam, except it is performed by a medical professional trained to detect abnormalities.

Have a healthcare professional such as your gynecologist or family physician check you annually to ensure you are not missing any signs when performing your self-exam.

With so many ways to catch breast cancer in its earliest stages, there is no reason to wait to get a screening. The National Breast Cancer Foundation offers an early detection plan that will remind you to do self-exams and schedule appointments based on your age and medical history.

Healthspek is a free personal healthcare tool run on a mobile Web platform. It is available for iPads through the App Store and accessible through the website on all PC and other mobile devices. To learn more, visit