Chances are you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Just check out these facts from the National Breast Cancer Foundation – they are scary!
Yes, that says 1 in 8 women. How many women do you have in your group of family and friends? This is something that all women need to be aware of. These facts actually reflect that things are getting better! More women are surviving because of early detection and increased awareness. Be aware, then share!
So what exactly should you know? Here is a good start. . . . .
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Cancer is a scary diagnosis no matter what type it is, sadly it seems all too common. Can you prevent breast cancer? No, unfortunately at this point that is not completely possible. There are, however, identified risk factors that are worth knowing about. If you have risk factors it does NOT mean that you will get cancer, just as if you don’t, it does not guarantee you will never have it.
Unfortunately, there are many risk factors that you can’t really do anything about. Most of these are genetic factors. They have been noted to raise your risk, but they are all factors that you can not change.
- Age: risk increases with age, most invasive forms are diagnosed after age 55
- Race: Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer, however African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive, advanced-stage, diagnosed at a younger age
- Gender: just being a woman, and yes men can get breast cancer
- Family History: your risk is doubled if you have a close relative with breast cancer
- Personal History: your risk is increased by 3-4 times if you already have been diagnosed with breast cancer
- Menstrual History: if you started menstruating prior to 12 or went through menopause after 55 your risk increases
- Pregnancy History: I guess this may be controllable. If you have no children or have your first full-term pregnancy after 30 you increase your risk.
- Benign Breast Conditions: certain noncancerous conditions may increase risk such as the excessive growth of normal cells
- Dense Breast Tissue: this makes it more difficult to detect, even by mammogram, and increase your risk
- Genetic Mutations: like BRCA1, BRCA2. Discuss this risk and testing with your provider if needed.
There are however some things that you CAN change to reduce your risk. 1 in 8 women are being diagnosed in their lifetime, don’t you want to reduce your risk? Take a look at this list and see what changes you may need to make.
Environmental & Lifestyle Factors You CAN Control
- Sedentary Lifestyle: get out there and move! Make exercise a part of your routine.
- Drinking Alcohol: the amount is important, the risk increases even more with more than one drink per day
- Poor Diet: get those fruits & veggies in
- Being Overweight: This is a reflection of those factors mentioned above, this factor is especially true after menopause
- Taking Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause: discuss risk vs. benefit with your physician, avoid it or take the lowest dose possible
- Smoking & Second-Hand Smoke Exposure: ditch this unhealthy habit and you will avoid many other health concerns as well
- Radiation Exposure: when possible limit or avoid higher dose radiation to the chest. Not controllable perhaps if it was the treatment of prior cancer in the chest.
- Not Breastfeeding: Longer-term breastfeeding, especially if more than a year, may decrease risk.
- Using Hormonal Birth Control: Most options today are very low dose so this risk is quite small. After you come off, the risk gradually returns to normal
Perhaps you have heard of a few more risk factors. As we desire to learn more about breast cancer, and all cancers for that matter, there are more risks that are being explored. Studies are being done or have been done that show potential for risk factors like low Vitamin D levels and various chemical exposures. Some of the chemicals in the spotlight are those in plastics (like BPA), cosmetics, foods (pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc.), lawn & garden products, sunscreen, and water.
What does that mean? Well here are a few ideas to consider.
Factors to Consider
Avoid plastic! There is some decent evidence here and that is why BPA is being banned in many areas. The alternatives that are replacing BPA in plastics, however, may not be much better. Your best option is to try to avoid plastics as much as possible. Especially avoid heating plastic in the microwave or placing hot food on plastic for consumption. Instead switch to glass, stainless steel and other alternatives to avoid this exposure. Here are some examples of glass storage and stainless steel.
Get your Vitamin D by enjoying the sunshine or taking a supplement. We are learning more and more about the benefits of Vitamin D and unfortunately many are deficient in this crucial vitamin. Those of us that live in northern climates especially need this during the winter months. Here is one that I have used. A dose is only 1 drop so it is convenient and lasts forever!
Choose your food wisely. Besides making healthy choices, consider choosing things that are free of hormones or antibiotics. There is still some controversy here, including the choice to eat organic. I prefer to stick with organic and non-GMO when I can, but again that is a choice for you to make.
Avoiding exposure to various chemicals in your household & garden products is important to your health. I clean most of my house with water and microfiber cloths, find out why cleaning your house can be bad for your health in one of my previous posts.
Choose clean cosmetics. This is why I have become involved with EVER! I would love to help you makeover your bathroom vanity and cosmetic bag with products that are not potentially risking your health. This is important! Chemicals that are classified as endocrine disruptors and possible causes of cancer are often found in personal care products. If it affects your hormones – what about hormone-related cancer like breast cancer? I also have done an entire article on choosing a safe sunscreen.
Detecting Breast Cancer early is so important. This makes it much easier to treat and improves chances for a good outcome.
How do you catch it early?
Breast Self Exam: You should be doing this monthly, about a week or so after your period. During this time, you are least likely to have swelling or changes due to normal hormonal fluctuations. Start this when you are young – get used to what your normal healthy breast tissue feels like. This is different for everyone. Your physician can go through the proper way to do an exam on yourself.
What are you looking for? Look for a lump or something that feels different than the other tissue around it, changes in breast size or shape (especially if one-sided), changes in the skin of breast or nipple such as flaking, redness, or dimpling. Also, take note of any swelling or lumps under your arm. If you notice any of these things or have other concerns it is best to discuss them with your physician.
Regular Physical Exams: This means your yearly exam with your physician should include a breast exam. They are trained to look for changes or concerns that need to be addressed.
Imaging: This most often is a mammogram, an x-ray of the breast. There are other ways, but that will be up to your health care provider. Regular screening mammograms are typically started at 40 years of age. If however, you have other risk factors, family history, or concerns on an exam, this may be needed sooner. Please discuss this with your physician. A mammogram may find a concern before it is large enough to feel on a self or clinical exam.
EVER Teams Up With Bright Pink In October
In October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am proud to say that EVER, Stella & Dot, and KEEP Collective are also supporting awareness by donating 20% of the retail price for purchases on all eligible products in October to Bright Pink, an organization focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. Get some bling and makeover your cosmetic bag while you contribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness. Check out the eligible products for October 2019!
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When it comes to Breast Cancer, be informed. Share this article with others and if you have concerns discuss them with your physician.
Are you ready to make some changes in your lifestyle?
Next check out:
- 10 Reasons to Choose EVER
- Cleaning Your House Can Be Bad for Your Health
- How to Choose a Safe Sunscreen