The Importance of Breast Cancer Awareness
Every October, we start seeing pink everywhere. Women enroll in breast cancer walks, wear pink ribbons, and even the men get in on the act, with the National Football League wearing pink towels and sports shoes. October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. The question is, how aware are you of breast cancer?
What is it?
Breast cancer is the formation of cancerous cells in the breast. If it is not caught early, it can spread to the lymph nodes of the immune system and beyond to other parts of the body, including, lung, liver, bone and brain.
What are the symptoms?
There are a number of key ways to prevent breast cancer, including:
• Breasts that are not the usual size, shape, and color
• A swelling or odd-looking bulging in the breast
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• An inverted nipple, that is, one which stick in rather than out
• A nipple that has changed location
• Redness, soreness, rash
• Peeling skin around the nipple
How can it be prevented?
• Adding more exercise and activity to your day
• Avoiding alcohol
• Not smoking cigarettes
• Not using hormonal contraceptives, but rather, other alternatives such as condoms, a diaphragm or IntraUterine Device (IUD)
• No childbirth
• A late first live birth, such as over the age of 30
• No breastfeeding
• Obesity, especially after menopause
• Not using hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal symptoms
• Avoiding getting too much radiation from X-rays or other diagnostic tests that use radiation
• Eating a healthy diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and high quality protein, such as salmon, tofu and kidney beans.
• Avoiding processed foods, red meat and cow milk that is not organic. Not eating charred or grilled red meat.
• Avoiding lots of chemicals in your personal care products, household cleaners and so on-consider making your own natural versions of these at home
Are there other things I can do to stay healthy in relation to breast cancer?
There are several other ways to stay on top of your breast cancer health.
The Know your Lemons campaign has become a huge success in getting women to become more breast cancer aware and learn how to give themselves exams.
Examine yourself regularly, such as once a month.
Regular doctor’s appointments
Regular doctor’s appointments are important for getting a clinical breast exam from your doctor to confirm anything you might find in your own self-exam, or pick up anything you might have missed.
Mammograms are a fairly reliable way to detect breast cancer, though they are not 100% fool-proof. Mammograms use small doses of radiation to scan the breasts for any irregularities or tumors. They do use radiation, so some people are concerned that mammograms might actually cause cancer.
Another issue is that these tests have to be administered by humans and assessed by them, which means there is room for human error. The machines have to be calibrated correctly and the test administered properly. Up to 25% of mammograms might result in recalls, which can be very upsetting.
There can also be false positives, leading to unneeded treatment, or false negatives, telling women they are in the clear when they actually have early grade cancer.
Some breast cancer has a genetic component, that is, it runs in families. Get a BRCA test to determine whether you have the gene mutation that might make it more likely for you to develop cancer.
Be an advocate for women’s health. Share what you learn with the help of this free kit: https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/PDFs/OctoberNHOToolkit.pdf
and help women prevent breast cancer, or detect it early, when it is easier to treat it successfully.