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In Your 40s
Get an annual mammogram. Experts stress getting a mammogram every year after you turn 40, regardless of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation last year that said otherwise. If it’s been determined that you’re at a higher risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about getting your first mammogram and MRI when you’re 35, says Brown.
Don’t take “It’s nothing” for an answer. If you notice a lump or any suspicious changes, don’t accept a dismissive answer from your healthcare provider. “You need to get a diagnosis. It’s not ‘nothing.’ Find out what the benign condition is,” says Katherine Lee, M.D., a breast specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Institute. To get a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend imaging, like a mammogram and ultrasound, then depending on the findings, a biopsy or monitoring the lump over time.
Limit hormone use. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help treat hot flashes and other bothersome menopause symptoms, but talk to your doctor about using “as low a dose as needed to control your symptoms for as short a time as possible,” says Brown.
Know yourself. Being able to recognize changes in your breasts is vital, which means you should know how they normally look and feel. Whether you do this through a Breast Self Exam (BSE), or a more informal process of looking and touching, experts agree that it’s key to know what’s normal for your body. The American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure no longer recommend giving yourself a BSE, since it’s unclear if BSEs improve survival rates. Instead, Komen for the Cure recommends breast self-awareness, which means you should see your health care provider immediately if you notice a lump, hard knot or thickening, swelling, warmth, redness or darkening, change in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering of the skin, an itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple, pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast, nipple discharge that starts suddenly or new pain in one spot that does not go away.
In Your 50s >>