Breast health is something you should aim to stay aware of throughout your life, not just during October when it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a new mom, it can be easy to neglect the all-important self-checks as you are so focused on your baby. We’re here to remind you to take the time to take care of yourself too.
Professor Justus Apffelstaedt – a Cape Town-based surgeon with an interest in breast, thyroid and parathyroid health as well as soft tissue surgical oncology – says that breast cancer occurs in 1 out of 3 000 pregnant women, mostly between the ages of 32 to 38. More and more women are delaying pregnancy until their middle or late thirties when breast cancer is more common. While it is very rare during pregnancy, doctors are expecting to diagnose more cases because of this shift in age.
Interestingly, women who become mothers before the age of 30 enjoy a lower risk of ever getting breast cancer. If you breastfeed, especially for longer than a year, the risk also decreases.
In short, breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the mammary glands that can spread to other parts of the body through the blood circulation or lymph system. If it is caught early, the chance of recovery is much greater. When a lump has already formed, this indicates that cancer has been growing fast, and intensive treatment will be necessary.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BREASTS
Breast sensitivity is often one of the first signs that you are pregnant. They can remain sensitive especially during the first trimester. The glands in the breasts are growing, and that is why your breasts will feel fuller and firmer. By 20 weeks your nipples and areola will also begin to change, even doubling in size. The skin will darken even more, and you might notice little lighter dots on the areola. These are tiny glands that produce oils to help with breastfeeding. Your nipples will become more elastic.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your breasts are already producing colostrum, your baby’s first milk, and they can leak a little and feel heavy.
KNOW YOUR BODY
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