October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In reflecting on this, I realized that in my circle of female family and friends, I know 7 families that have been impacted by this disease. The age range of the women that were inflicted is from 20+ to 70+ and some survived while others succumbed to the disease. Just thinking of these facts impressed upon me the prevalence of this disease in our society and the importance of embracing a lifestyle of prevention.
In studying the subject, I decided to share some of the information with you, my blog audience, in an effort to help you and yours.
- Simply being a female. You don’t have to have any of the other risk factors but if you are a woman that is sufficient for developing breast cancer.
- You had a prior infliction of breast cancer in one breast.
- You have other family members that have been inflicted with breast cancer.
- You have inherited a gene mutation (BRCA1 / BRCA2).
- You are obese (BMI greater than 30).
- You drink alcohol
- You have been exposed to radiation.
- You started your menstrual cycle at a young age.
- You started menopause at an old age.
- You had your first child at 35 or older.
- You have never been pregnant.
- You are post-menopausal and using hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
- Growing older. As we age, the chance of developing breast cancer increases. How do we escape this one?
- If you are child-bearing, breast feed your babies.
- If you are menopausal, limit the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
- Be consistent with weight management.
- Exercise consistently and frequently – a 30 minute brisk walk 5 times/week is sufficient.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Do not smoke.
- Beware of radiation exposure.
- Eating a healthy – while eating fruits/vegetables hasn’t shown to impact the breast cancer risk and eating low fat only slightly impacts the risk, it is still advantageous to eat healthy as this will help to control your weight and to reduce the risk for other diseases such as diabetes.
- As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the yearly mammogram is a necessary discomfort we must all bear to be aware. After one of my friends lost her 20+ sister to breast cancer and reading these risk factors, it is now my belief that women should start having mammogram as early as possible…….maybe at 18 years of age.
- The monthly self breast exam is probably the most important monitoring tip. We know our bodies better than anyone and will quickly notice any change. My cousin, who is a breast cancer survivor, told me that she had just had a mammogram with normal results when she discovered a lump in her breast at her monthly self breast exam. It was malignant but due to her early detection she won the battle.
In the U.S, it is estimated that approximately 233,000 women will have a breast cancer diagnosis. There are many support organizations such as the Susan G. Komen (http://ww5.komen.org) and the Sisters Network (http://www.sistersnetworkinc.org) that are helping survivors and strive to help eradicate this disease. I have not been overtly active in this cause beyond donating to it but, as woman, I think that I should consider other ways to show my support. I hope after reading this blog post that some of you will have the same motivation.