Breast changes as we age is completely common. The breasts of a 40-year-old differ dramatically from those of a 20-year-old. Understanding what is considered normal for your breasts in your 40s can ensure that you maintain good breast health into your 50s and well beyond.
Unfortunately, breast cancer is the leading form of cancer found in women in Bermuda. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime with only 5-10% of these diagnoses having a hereditary link.
One of the most important things women can do when they turn 40 is schedule a screening mammogram. A doctor’s referral is not required for this exam which means women can call Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre (BCHC) directly to schedule an their own appointment.
Screening mammograms are covered by health insurance, and BCHC believes that every woman should have access to recommended screening so the centre does not charge a co-pay and their Equal Access Fund can help subsidise the cost in cases of no health insurance.
For women at average risk, screening mammograms should be performed annually beginning at age 40 to check the breasts for any early signs of breast cancer. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, such as being of African-American descent, you and your doctor may decide to start screening at a younger age.
In addition to regular screenings, it is essential to perform regular breast exams. A breast self-exam can be performed in the shower following your period. Include gently probing your breast tissue in a circular motion which can help you detect small lumps that could be a sign of cancer. If you discover anything unusual in your breasts or if you have concerns about your breast health, you should follow up with your Doctor as soon as possible – don’t wait!
No screening test is perfect, but mammography is the closest thing we have when screening for breast cancer and remains the gold standard for preventative breast health. A mammogram can find breast cancer before it can be felt. Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully.
Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre welcome women to call 236-1001 if they have questions about early breast cancer detection and to schedule their screening mammogram appointment.