October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and let’s be honest – when was the last time you put breast health at the top of your wellbeing list? With articles on inspiring survival stories, the latest breast cancer research, memes and euphemisms for breasts filling newsfeeds this month – women know that one key to prevention is checking for lumps and bumps. It can be one of the most proactive health moves you make each month and all year, yet it’s often last on the to-do list.
The odds that you – or your sister, aunt, mother, daughter, girlfriend or colleague – are neglecting your breast health is about one in three. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated approximately one-third of women age 40 and older – or about 35 percent – did not have a mammogram in the last two years.1 This important screening could be the one appointment that helps prevent you from being impacted by the most common cancer affecting women in the United States – excluding some types of skin cancer – regardless of race or ethnicity.2
When you consider these startling figures, it’s important to make breast health a health priority. Help take care of yourself by adding these tips to your checklist – and sharing them with the women in your life:
- Give yourself a squeeze. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 70 percent of breast cancer cases are caught by women under the age of 50.3 Unsure of where to start and how to check yourself? The Office on Women’s Health lists a wealth of resources as well as a step-by-step approach. This way, if you notice a change – you can be empowered with knowledge about your body and ready to have a conversation with your doctor.
- Be proactive. Age, overall health condition and family history are all factors that may impact the likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Did you know your risk for breast cancer can increase if you had your first child after age 30? And yet, your risk can decrease if you breastfeed? That’s why it’s important to be informed. In general, mammograms are recommended every one to two years after the age of 40 – but for those at high risk, the recommendation is to begin at age 30. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare’s resource on breast health and breast cancer. You can find helpful information from steps for a successful mammogram to what items to consider adding to your checklist to discuss with your doctor.
- Make the call. If you sense something is amiss, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. If prioritizing your health while also juggling family, home and work feels like you need super powers, and you are a UnitedHealthcare member, call the member number listed on your health plan ID card or email Advocate4Me at Advocate4Me@uhc.com so you can discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional. They can even help make an appointment that will fit within your busy schedule.
- Kick one habit to the curb. Do what’s best for your breasts by making informed lifestyle choices. Focus on breaking one negative habit, or helping improve one area of your daily routine. For example, power up on cancer-fighting superfoods such as broccoli, berries and black beans.4 If you smoke, do all you can to snuff out this detrimental habit. Small changes can help you take charge of your health today and can produce a ripple effect improving your wellbeing tomorrow.
- Show support. Encourage the women in your life to prioritize their breast health and get a mammogram or take other breast-healthy steps. Men have different risk factors, so find out here how you could help them as well.
Taking control of your health doesn’t require superhuman strength. Considering these steps may help you be your own breast health hero and show others that investing in their health is the best decision – for everyone. When it comes to your health, don’t save your breasts for last.