What's Your Month?
OCTOBER 1, 2011
I don't know why it's June for me, but I always schedule my mammogram in June. I suspect it's related to my old schedule as a teacher: June, July and August were the months of my appointments. So every year in May I get a reminder that I should call and schedule my mammogram. And so I do.
This year, I sat in the waiting room with four other women. As I picked up my magazine while draped in my lovely fabric cape that is not akin to a super hero, I glanced around the room.
We were women of all sizes, shapes and colors. Yet, we were all the same. We were women on a mission to take control of the things we could control and testing the things we could test.
What month was your mammogram?
If you don't have a specific month of your mammogram ingrained in your life, select a month. Many women declare their birth month to be ideal. No matter how you decide. Do it!
Ah! The photo? In August, my sister and my sister-in-love took me on a birthday trip to the lovely town of Fredricksburg, Texas. We ate German food, chocolate cake, fruit torts, egg burritos and cheesecake sprinkled with a bit of salad. It was my 55th birthday - a milestone for the women-folk of our family. And so we celebrated health and happy lives!
Here's to breast health and mammograms.
Mammograms: Why We Nag You to Get Them
OCTOBER 1, 2011
According to the National Cancer Institute, a mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease has been found. Here are some more points from the NCI:
Screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74.
Screening mammography is also associated with potential harms, including false-negative results, false-positive results, the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and ductal carcinoma in situ lesions that would not have caused symptoms or threatened a woman’s life (i.e., overdiagnosis and overtreatment), and radiation exposure.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older should have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years.
Women can get high-quality mammograms in breast clinics, hospital radiology departments, mobile vans, private radiology offices, and doctors’ offices.
–National Cancer Institute
If you have a family history of breast cancer, most doctors recommend starting regular mammograms in your thirties, or even younger. When you get your first mammogram, don’t panic if you get called back for a follow-up visit. Everyone’s breasts are different, and it is quite normal for there to be shadows and white spots that are harmless. Women with large, dense breasts are particularly likely to have shadows and bumps and calcifications (which show up as bright white spots) that are visible in their mammography images. Your radiologist knows which particular patterns and shapes might be cause for concern and will want to see anything unusual from multiple points of view, just to be sure they are no cause for concern. Particularly with a first mammogram, when there are no prior images to compare current results to, your radiologist will look very closely at your images and double check them. He or she may then ask you to do a follow-up in six months to see if there are any changes.
Don’t put off your mammograms, even if you don’t feel any lumps or changes during your monthly self-exams. Mammograms can detect suspicious masses long before they are large enough for you to feel during a self-exam. Most insurance plans cover them annually, and they are relatively quick and easy to do.
Estrogen Therapy (ET): Making the Right Choice
OCTOBER 1, 2011
Deciding whether to take a medication to relieve certain symptoms that can accompany menopause is no small task. But if your life is being interrupted by moderate to severe hot flashes, night sweats, and uncomfortable vaginal dryness, an FDA-approved ET may be an effective solution. Additionally, some ETs have been approved to reduce the risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis (PMO), a thinning and weakening of the bones that can occur after menopause, when estrogen levels plummet.
While the choice to take ET is yours, you and your doctor will have to work together to determine which type is best for you. During your next appointment, ask the following questions, to help find an ET that fits your lifestyle.
As you may already know, no one ET works for everyone. You may have to try a few different types of therapy and/or dosage strengths before finding a treatment that works for you. Whether you're planning on starting an ET, or looking to switch to a different type of therapy, you and your doctor should choose a treatment based on your unique needs.
- Which form of ET would work best with my lifestyle: a pill, a patch, or a topical formula?
- What are the risks and benefits of this ET?
- How often would I have to take this form of ET?
- Is this ET bioidentical (chemically identical to estrogen made by the ovaries)?
- When will I start to feel a difference?
- Which ETs help prevent PMO?
Breast Size Changes after Hysterectomy: Too Big, Too Small, Just Right
OCTOBER 1, 2011
Did you experience a significant change in breast size or firmness after your hysterectomy? If so, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy! In the HysterSisters.com forums, “Did your breasts shrink?” has become a frequently asked question.
Many factors can influence changes in breast size after a hysterectomy. If you got your ovaries out and do not use hormone replacement therapy, there’s a chance your breasts will shrink a bit or lose some firmness. If you are on estrogen, you might find yourself with larger breasts than ever, or you might experience breast pain or tenderness, a signal that you might be on too high of a dose.
Some doctors say that a hysterectomy should not affect breast size, but women who have experienced it beg to differ. Some attribute their “incredible shrinking breasts” to weight loss or reduced swelling and water retention following their surgeries and recoveries. Many women say they are pleased with their new smaller sizes because it reduces strain on their backs and shoulders.
Others mourn the loss of breasts that were too small to spare an ounce to start with. Still others find themselves having to shop for bigger bras as their breasts expand by a cup size or more. And some experience no breast changes at all post-hysterectomy. No matter what your experience is in this regard, try to accept the way your breasts look and feel once they’ve settled into their new size or shape. We women tend to wrap up a great deal of our self-perception and sexuality in our breasts, and it is normal to react negatively to significant changes there. But you can take some actions to shore up your comfort and self-esteem. For example, if you think you’re too small now, try a padded bra or a gel insert to boost the “girls.”
If you feel that your breasts have become uncomfortably large, try going for a professional bra fitting and pick up a reduction bra with good support. If you’re worried about your sexual partner not finding you attractive anymore, try to put your concerns aside. Most men say they do not care about breast size in the women they love. You may even find that it is fun to try on clothes that would not have flattered you when your breasts were a different size. In other words, try to enjoy the new you!
Nipples and Areolas and Ducts, Oh My!
OCTOBER 1, 2011
Breasts are more complex than they seem, and they do need some care and attention to stay healthy. Along with fatty tissue, breasts contain connective tissue (fascia and ligaments), fibrous tissue, milk ducts, nerves, lymph nodes, and skin. They are attached to a wall of muscles that in turn are attached to the ribs and breast bone.
We all know about breast self-exams, which advise us to look for lumps, discharge, color changes, and other shifts in the shape or consistency of breast tissues to detect cancer in its early stages. But these exams can also alert women to the presence of infections of the nipples, areolas, or ducts; fibrocystic growths; and skin conditions that can become painful or unsightly without treatment. Here are some symptoms that you should have checked out by your doctor as soon as you notice them:
A new lump or the growth of an old lump;
Skin dimpling on the surface of your breast;
Changes in color or texture of breast skin, nipple, or areola;
Nipple inversion (pulling in);
Clear or bloody nipple discharge;
Pain or inflammation inside the breast or on the nipple or areola;
Hot, red, tender areola or nipple.
Breast infections can be caused by blocked ducts, bacterial infections, abscesses, trauma, or autoimmune diseases. They tend to be quite painful, so you should seek treatment promptly. Many breast infections can be cleared up with hot compresses and antibiotics.
To keep your breasts healthy, do self-exams every month, wear supportive bras (sports bras when exercising to minimize bouncing), moisturize dry nipples and areolas, and see your doctor whenever you become concerned about pain or changes in your breasts. Any question you have about breast changes is worth checking with your doctor, just in case, particularly if you have a family history of breast cancer or fibrocystic breast disease.
From the HysterSisters Forums
OCTOBER 1, 2011
I am about year out from my hysterectomy, kept ovaries but my uterus and cervix were taken out. I don't have a family history of breast cancer other my mothers grandmother had a masectomy for it in the 80's. My question is....I noticed a bump (lump) in my right breast and have watched it every day because I figure it could be hormonal and don't want to jump to conclusions. As of last night I felt it had gotten a little bigger. Should I wait a week to make sure it isn't my cycle to go to the doctor or these kinds of things not disappear? Its not painful. I'm not sure what to do and don't want to overreact. Thank you to anyone that help me with this.
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OCTOBER 1, 2011
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