By Lily Dulberg, Contributing blogger
What do you know about breast cancer?
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many of us have either experienced the disease ourselves or have supported a loved one who has. According to The American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her life. To put that in perspective, 12% of women in the U.S. will be diagnosed. More women die from breast cancer in the U.S. than from any other type of cancer, besides lung cancer.
People of all ages seek treatment for this disease every year in the U.S., though the average age of diagnosis is around 62 years old. It might sound pretty grim, and since you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready for some good news. Breast cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if caught early. These 4 tips will help you stay in tune with your body and stay abreast of the latest and most important breast health habits and tips to keep you healthy and in-the-know at every age.
Anyone can develop breast cancer.
Although there is a genetic component to the disease, people of all ages, genders, races and cultural backgrounds can develop breast cancer. The majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history. That’s just one reason why prevention and checkups are key! Though women are commonly affected, men have higher rates of mortality from breast cancer and tend to go undiagnosed for longer.
Another high-risk group is young women. Women ages 25-44 at average risk should have annual clinical breast exams by a practitioner, while women ages 40 and older are generally recommended to schedule their yearly mammogram in conjunction with a clinical breast exam. The American Cancer Society recommends screenings beginning as early as age 40. If you have a first-degree relative who dealt with the disease or you have a genetic predisposition (BRCA gene) you are above average risk. The guidelines for women who are above average risk vary greatly, so read up and see where you fall to determine your plan of action for prevention. Always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or if you feel something is off. If you or someone you know needs assistance with a breast cancer diagnosis, try finding a support group. We’re lucky to be living in a time where we have access to an abundance of reliable information and resources available to people experiencing this disease.
Know what to look out for and when to see the doctor.
Breast cancer has a number of warning signs. Like with other diseases and medical conditions, it’s important to stay attuned to changes within your body, energy levels, appearance, and mood. Sites like #knowyourlemons help make breast cancer-specific signs and symptoms more digestible. This infographic from Know Your Lemons can help you recognize when something is just not right. Whether you suspect something is off or not, be sure to schedule regular visits with your health care practitioner and bring with you any questions you might have about your breasts or the disease. Getting screened is key in diagnosing and preventing breast cancer. The sooner you take action, the better your chances are of finding cancer before it progresses.
You are in control.
Factors like gender, genetics, and age are quite obviously out of our circle of control. Outside of these factors, you can make healthy lifestyle choices to lessen your exposure to carcinogens. Things like diet, physical activity, alcohol usage, and smoking can influence your risk of breast cancer. For instance, research shows a link between post-menopausal breast cancer and obesity. Smoking tobacco is known to increase the incidence of many types of cancer, including breast cancer. Keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum also has positive outcomes in reducing cancer risk. Try limiting your consumption of red and processed, deli-type meats as there has been some evidence that these foods could increase your risk. Adopting a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and environment is important for so many facets of your health and wellness.
We also have control of our emotions and reactions to the things that happen in our lives. Try reducing your stress levels through mindful habits like meditation and yoga. Let’s get to it!
Stay updated on the latest information and share it widely!
Education and prevention are key. Though the American Cancer Society no longer recommends self-examination, there are so many ways to stay in tune with your body. There are a number of variations in types of breast cancer and each is treated differently. It’s incredible how much innovation we’ve seen in breast cancer treatment over the years. If you’re in doubt about your or a loved one’s treatment plan, you can always seek a second opinion.
Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. It seems like everyone on this planet has been touched by this disease in some way. Stay in tune with your body, the research, and recommendations from trusted doctors to prevent and/or manage a breast cancer diagnosis. No matter the age, health is wealth, so let’s commit to sharing this important information and helping our friends, neighbors and loved ones stay happy and healthy! Spread the word this #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth by sharing this article with someone in your life. Here’s to fighting this disease together with knowledge, education, and prevention!