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October 21st / Bra Day: What Your Breasts Need You to Know

What is Bra Day?

Pink ribbon breast cancer awareness

The goal of Bra Day is to raise awareness about the options available to women who want to prevent breast cancer, and especially to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, who have undergone or are scheduled for a mastectomy and are looking for information and support to lead a normal life post-surgery, such as through a breast reconstruction procedure.

In Canada, breast cancer comes 2nd as the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women, after skin cancer, and in the US, it is estimated that 1 in 8 women will get diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. It is much more common than you may think!

It is important to educate yourself and your loved ones on the preventative measures, symptoms to look for, and options available after a breast cancer diagnosis in order to take the best possible care of your breasts, and therefore your health.

Breast Cancer Prevention and Detection

In order to reduce the risk you have of getting breast cancer or allowing it to spread, it is imperative that you develop healthy habits that will ultimately improve the relationship you have with your breasts. The risk of developing breast cancer can be inborn such as through genetics, but may also be increased through poor lifestyle choices.

 

Dr. Sinno Suggests These 5 Lifestyle Tips to Help Prevent and Detect Cancer:

 

1. Lead a healthy lifestyle

In order to strengthen your immune system (which can help you fight off cancer cells), a healthy lifestyle is of utmost importance. This includes:

  • Adopting and maintaining a healthy diet that is ideally plant-based. For more information on diet tips targeting cancer prevention and keeping your body strong based on your individual needs, consult your physician and/or a dietician/nutritionist.
  • Exercise regularly and be sure to get as much physical activity and the types of physical activity that are recommended for your age group. If you have any health concerns, consult your physician.
  • Getting adequate sleep and minimizing stress
  • Reducing your exposure to pollution as much as possible – such as second-hand smoke, car exhausts, etc.
  • Being a non-smoker
  • Minimizing alcohol consumption

 

2. Get into the habit of doing regular self- breast examinations

Getting to know your breasts is key to being able to know what is normal, and when to give the doctor a visit. Below is a diagram that gives some guidance on how to do a breast check.

2016-10-01-breast-cancer-examination

The breast examination should be done gently and carefully using the pads of your finger tips, pressing firmly enough to feel the consistency and shape of the underlying tissue. The process should not be rushed and should be done slowly enough to allow you to be attentive to these characteristics. Regularly examining your breasts will allow you to get to know the regular look and feel of your breasts. This way, if there is even a slight change, you will be able to seek clarification and help more immediately. Remember that the sooner the breast cancer is detected, the better; in order to prevent the cancer from progressing onto the next stage (more info on the stages are in the next section).

If you want to get to know your breasts even more, it can help to know your genetic makeup, as women with a BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. You can find out if you have this gene through a genetic blood test that is covered by Medicare in Canada.

 

3. Be sure to routinely have check-ups with your doctor

Ask your doctor how often you should have clinical check-ups (such as breast exams and/or mammograms) and make scheduling these appointments a priority. Having a good knowledge of your breasts from your own self-examinations can be very helpful for these visits as well. Many cases of cancer detection have been from women noticing a difference in their breasts, and consequently bringing their concern to a doctor. Your breasts may depend on it! A knowledgeable doctor should encourage your questions and understand your concerns.

 

4. Avoid potentially harmful ingredients in personal care and beauty products

You may be surprised to know that many conventional beauty and personal care products (eg. deodorant, lotions, shampoo, laundry detergent) contain ingredients that may be harmful for your health. Be sure to research ingredients that could pose such risks and re-assess whether or not you want to continue using the products you have. Deodorant is especially important because it is applied near the lymph nodes that are near the breast. Some ingredients may be potentially harmful to your health, particularly through potential carcinogenic and/or hormone-disrupting effects. Some examples of common ingredients you may want to avoid are Parabens (eg. Methylparaben), Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Phthalates, Triclosan, , 1,3-butadiene, and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) . You can find out more information about what toxic ingredients are best to avoid in cosmetic and personal products by doing a quick online research.

 

5. Treat your breasts with care

Some extra steps you can take is to make sure your bra is comfortable and to minimize the amount of time you spend wearing it. Avoid sleeping in your bra unless sleeping without one makes you uncomfortable. In this case, opt for a more loose-fitting, comfortable bra (no padding or underwire).

What is a Clinical Breast Check-Up?

Though helpful, self breast examinations are not the most accurate way to detect breast cancer symptoms. For a more comprehensive examination of breast health, clinical breast check-ups that are done by a doctor will provide you with more in-depth results, through professional breast health examinations such as physical examination, mammogram, ultrasounds and/ or MRIs depending on your age and health condition.

 

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is malignant, which means that if it is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body, otherwise known as metastasis. When cancer first appears in the breast tissue, it can be very hard to detect in the early stages of development, such as in stages 1 and 2, (see image below) through self breast examinations, and this is why clinical breast check-ups are of great importance. The breast cancer can start spreading to nearby lymph nodes in the breast and chest area, and can also spread to the bones, lungs, liver and brain. To learn more in-depth information about Breast Cancer and how it appears and develops in the body, you can visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Society’s website.

Stages of breast cancer

Surgical Procedures for Breast Cancer

Once the cancer is detected, it needs to be removed as soon as possible. As noted above, your health and life depend on your immediate actions, as to prevent any further spreading or metastasis of the cancer. These risks are not to be taken lightly and treatment should be made your #1 priority.

 

Treatments for Breast Cancer

Radiation, Drug Therapy, and Chemotherapy:

These methods are used in combination or separately from surgical procedures. To read more about them, you can visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Society’s information page on these treatments.

Lumpectomy and Mastectomy:

The surgical procedure of removal of a lump or tumour in a breast is called a lumpectomy, and a mastectomy involves the removal of a whole breast. Sometimes part of the breast needs to be removed, and at times it could be a whole breast, or both breasts, depending on what is determined to be the safest option for you by the doctor examining your individual situation.

* It is important to note that these procedures, often performed by a general surgeon, are NOT intended to have aesthetic results, including minimal scarring. The surgeon’s main concern is removing the cancer to save your life, not necessarily taking the time to close the incisions in such a way that minimizes scarring. Therefore, these surgical procedures may not only leave a woman with a loss of breast volume and change of shape, but with large scars as well. This is why choosing an immediate breast reconstruction (explained in the following section) may help you achieve the most aesthetic result. Another important thing to consider when researching breast reconstruction options is to look for a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon, who ideally specializes in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery. You should also consider choosing a doctor specialized in Breast Reconstruction including flap (DIEP, SIEA) surgery and implant based reconstruction, which may help maximize your satisfaction in achieving the results you desire.

 

What are the options for Breast Reconstruction?

 

Having a part of the breast missing and/or having significant scarring after the mastectomy can have considerable psychological implications for a woman, such as not feeling normal or being dissatisfied with the appearance and symmetry of their breasts. Post lumpectomy or mastectomy, many women report a consequential feeling of loss of identity or femininity, and the resulting change in shape and size as well as possible large scars from the mastectomy can serve as constant uncomfortable reminders of the breast cancer diagnosis and treatment process. Returning the breasts to the original shape and size is often a natural desire for these women.

To retain the appearance of the breasts, one may choose to wear more padding in the side of the bra that had surgery, or wear prosthetic breasts.Fortunately, there are also surgical breast reconstruction procedures available that can help you regain the way the breasts were before surgery, which can include an augmentation and/or lift as well.

Many women do not realize that breast reconstruction is also covered by Medicare in Canada*.

*Please note that coverage is limited solely to the breast or breasts affected by the cancer.

 

Immediate vs. Delayed Reconstruction

Immediate breast reconstruction involves strategically planning the breast reconstruction to take part right after the breast mastectomy is performed, as part of a combined procedure. This way, a woman can choose to avoid the period of time where she is living without a breast, and there is generally only one surgery needed for these two procedures.

Delayed breast reconstruction is done after and separately from the mastectomy. In many cases, women have a delayed breast reconstruction because they did not know about the surgical options available to reshape and balance the breasts while planning the mastectomy.

 

Types of Breast Reconstruction

There are three types of breast reconstruction procedures: implant-based, flap-based, and a combination of the two. Depending on your health state, the amount of supporting tissue you have left after the mastectomy and your preferences, your surgeon will explain to you what option he or she thinks is best for your reconstructive procedure and why.

 

Implant-based breast reconstruction involves reshaping the breast using an implant. For more information on implant-based breast reconstruction, please visit our ‘Breast Augmentation’ procedure page. Implant reconstruction can be one stage (direct to implant) or two staged (first stage is breast expander insertion and the second stage involves removing the expanded breast and replacing it with the permanent implant).

 

Flap-based breast reconstruction involves reshaping the breast using a ‘flap’ taken from your body, such as from fat and/or muscle and the accompanying blood vessels.

 

Combination breast reconstruction is a mix of the two previous methods. It involves using a segment of your body in order to construct a structure that will be able to support an implant.

 

Dr. Sinno’s ‘Breast Reconstruction’ procedure page has more detailed information about these options.

 

Don’t Forget to Care For Your Breasts!

We hope that this blog has helped you learn more about how to prevent and/or minimize the damage that breast cancer can cause. Please make sure you take the health of your breasts seriously and treat them with care regularly.

 

If you have any questions about any of the above information, please do not hesitate to contact us! We would love to hear from you and are always happy to help you achieve the assurance and wellness that you deserve!

To your wellness,

The Eternelle Team

 

 

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Dr. Hani Sinno