Don't press pause on your breast health
By Susan Dennehy
Published Wednesday, October 7, 2020
If the pandemic has you thinking you should delay medical care because you don't want to burden the health-care system, or because you are leery of attending a health-care facility, you need to remember that even in a pandemic, it is important to make your health and well-being a priority. This includes making regular appointments with your health-care team for check-ups and immunizations. It also includes taking care of your breast health.
Each October, Breast Cancer Awareness month highlights breast health and what that means for Manitobans. This year is no different with the launch of the latest awareness campaign, "Don't Press Pause On Your Breast Health", that encourages everyone to take care of their breast health even if we're in the midst of a pandemic.
Breast health is important for all women and men, young and old. Statistics show more than 850 Manitobans are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and it accounts for approximately 25% of new cases of cancer among Canadian women.
The Breast Health Centre has a team of experts who specialize in managing breast health and breast cancer. The Centre's goal is to deliver and support services provided to women and men across the province with breast health concerns, providing them with a rapid diagnosis of the breast issue, timely assessment, education, support, and treatment planning. The Centre sees approximately 10,000 patients a year for diagnostic tests, surgical consultation and follow up, as well as breast cancer-related lymphedema treatment.
During the pandemic, the Centre's team has adapted services to keep you and its staff safe. The clinic offers both in-person and virtual visits as appropriate. Clients who come to the clinic for a diagnostic procedure, surgical consultation or lymphedema treatment can be assured that enhanced cleaning, social distancing, and patient screening occur before each visit. Public Health guidance is being followed and staff are screened and equipped with personal protective equipment.
To keep your breasts healthy, become familiar with how they look and feel. Knowing this will help you recognize changes in your breast, such as lumps, nipple discharge, or changes in appearance. This means looking at your breasts, touching them and knowing how they may change each month. If you notice a change in your breast, make an appointment to see a health-care provider. If you have received a letter for a breast screening appointment, it is important to make that appointment.
The Breast Health Centre offers many resources and supports to help women and men referred to the clinic. We can support you every step of the way, from diagnostic testing to surgical consultations to treatment and care after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Patients diagnosed with breast cancer have access to our social worker to support individual and family needs, and our dietitian is available for nutritional counselling throughout the cancer journey.
Education sessions are also available at www.sharedhealthmb.ca/bhc to help prepare patients before and after breast cancer surgery and to learn more about breast cancer treatment. Classes like Bone Health after Breast Cancer, Let's Get Physical, and Eat Well, Get Fit & Live Well are available to provide practical information and tips for a healthy lifestyle after breast cancer treatment. They will be offered in-person or virtually depending on the class. When in-person education sessions resume at the Centre, there will be limited numbers to accommodate physical distancing and to adhere to Public Health guidelines.
While there is no single thing you can do to prevent breast cancer, making healthy choices and living a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk and improve your health and wellness. Be active, keep your weight as healthy as you can, limit your alcohol use, eat a variety of foods and healthy fats, and be smoke free.
During this time, remember to be kind to yourself, and continue to care for your physical health and mental well-being. Don't delay seeking care when you have health concerns or require screening, immunizations and regular check-ups. It is important to stay connected with your health-care team to receive timely care, diagnosis and treatment.
More information about breast health, upcoming services and education sessions are available from the Breast Health Centre's website at www.sharedhealthmb.ca/bhc using the Education Sessions link, or by calling 204-235-3906 or toll free in Manitoba 1-888-501-5219.
Susan Dennehy is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Breast Health Centre. This column was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.