written by Toni Brannagan

Body Banter

Achieving Your Breast Health

In case you missed this glorious clip of Serena Williams singing “I Touch Myself” topless, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is unfortunately one of the most common cancers to affect American women, but thanks to the efforts of groups like the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, we know more information than ever about reducing risk, prevention, and early detection and diagnosis.

While illness is not always symptomatic (that’s why breast cancer screenings are so crucial!), there are still many things *you* can adopt into your lifestyle to keep yourself educated about your body, and keep your boobs healthier in general.

Get regular checkups

Choosing the right gynecologist isn’t just important for your health down there. Hopefully, you’re already making regular appointments that include breast exams, but next time, push past the awkwardness and be an active participant.

Take note of the area your doctor is checking, and if you’re comfortable, ask questions about what they’re doing, as well as what to look for on your own. Taking charge of your health in this way will help you throughout the year, when you’re not in the doctor’s office.

Know your history

Knowing that you’re at a higher risk for developing breast cancer if close family members have been diagnosed can feel scary to face head on, but your relatives’ history can help you and your doctor assess how high risk *you* are.

Depending on the history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor can tailor a screening plan unique to you, which can include not just regular breast exams and self-exams, but a schedule for mammograms, MRIs, or ultrasounds, if necessary.

You won’t be able to take the steps to properly manage your risk, however, if you don’t keep yourself (or your doctor) informed.

Know your normal

Check yo’ self out regularly, even if it’s just a quick glance in the mirror after you shower. Being familiar with how your boobs normally look will help you identify any changes that are worth reporting to your doctor.

I’m not saying you should run to the hospital every time you spot a stray hair or anything — but there are a few things that you should be able to notice visually, such as:

  • significant changes in size
  • dimples, ridges, or other changes in texture
  • changes in your nipples
  • redness, rashes, sores, or swelling (especially accompanied by itchiness or pain)

Perform self-exams

In between annual exams, check yourself out for any changes — a lot can happen in a year, after all. Feeling yourself up may seem self-explanatory, but make sure you are actually using the correct technique, examining the correct area, and are aware of what abnormalities you’re looking for. Obviously, communicate with your doctor if you find anything that worries you.

Choosing a specific day every month (you can even add a reminder on your phone) can help you make self-exams part of your routine. Remember that you should try to avoid them when you’re on your period though, because do you really want to mess around with your already sore boobs?

Live your breast life

You probably already know how a few li’l changes can affect your general well-being for the better. Unfortunately, some of our *ahem* less-than-healthy lifestyle choices, like smoking, can also put us at a higher risk for many health issues besides breast cancer.

Try monitoring how often you exercise every day — just 30 minutes of getting your heart rate up truly makes a difference (Michelle Obama was *not* lying, y’all)! Additionally, make sure your diet is filled with fruits and veggies, and less red meat. I probably also don’t have to tell you that drinking alcohol in excess isn’t particularly healthy, either.

Switching up your habits in favor of a healthier lifestyle can decrease the likelihood for breast cancer, even if these things seem small and insignificant. They add up! Your entire body (not just your boobs!), and your doctor, for that matter, will thank you in the long run for the extra attention, I promise!

-How do you show your boobs a li’l extra love? Share your tips for keeping your tatas healthy with us in the comments.-

This article originally appeared in Periodical.

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