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Welcome to the first of many blog posts regarding Breast Cancer Awareness, and Breast Cancer facts. Every Friday, we will be showcasing different topics related to Breast Cancer, and share some interesting facts, statistics, and precautions you can take to protect yourself from this disease.
Today, we will be discussing preventative care, as well as facts about Breast Cancer testing that you can share with your loved ones.
1. Women often detect breast cancers themselves, so do not underestimate the importance of a monthly breast self-exam. By becoming more familiar with your breast tissue and appearance, you will be more apt to notice changes, should they occur. Checking yourself frequently will help you detect a lump often before a doctor does, thus increasing the risk of early detection.
2. Mammograms are a common form of Breast Cancer testing. They can be used to check for the disease in women who have no signs or symptoms of it. There are actually two types of mammograms: screening mammograms, and diagnostic mammograms. Screening mammograms usually involve two or more x-ray pictures of each breast. The x-ray images often make it possible to detect tumors that can't be felt. They also can find microcalcifications, or tiny deposits of calcium, that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign has been found. They can also be used to evaluate changes found during a screening mammogram, or to view breast tissue when it is difficult to obtain a screening mammogram. While the same machines are used for each, diagnostic mammography takes longer to perform, and the total dose of radiation is higher because more x-ray images are needed to obtain views of the breast from several angles. The technologist may magnify a suspicious area to produce a detailed picture that can help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
3. Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread. Screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 - 74 years.
4. Regular high quality screening mammograms and clinical breast exams are the most sensitive ways to screen for breast cancer, so it is important to routinely visit your doctor and go for your routine mammogram.
5. Uninsured or low-income women can obtain a free or low cost screening mammogram by contacting the CDC. The CDC coordinates the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provide screening services, including clinical breast exams and mammograms, to low income, uninsured women. Contact information for local programs is available on the CDC website, or by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO.
6. Digital Mammography is another option to conventional mammography. In digital mammography, an electronic image of the breast is stored as a computer file, as opposed to film. This digital information can be enhanced, magnified, or manipulated for further evaluation more easily than information stored on film. Digital images can also be shared electronically, making remote consultations between radiologists and breast surgeons much easier.
7. Women who smoke or inhale passive smoke may increase their risk of breast cancer by as much as 60%. A simple way to prevent or lower your risk of breast cancer is to not smoke. Younger women who smoke have a higher risk of breast cancer than their nonsmoking peers.
8. For prevention, keeping to a high fiber, low fat diet, and eating less red meat is highly recommended. Women who eat the most red meat have an 88 - 330% higher risk of breast cancer.
9. Just 30 minutes of aerobic activity 3 to 5 times a week can lower your risk of breast cancer by 30 to 50%.
10. Pesticides are toxic! Did you know that they can get into your DNA and mess with your cells? Another small way to help protect yourself is to check the sticker on your fruits and opt for the ones that are organic.
11. Plastics slowly leach chemicals into our food, water, environment, and bodies. Never reuse one time use plastics, or microwave plastic containers, as they can release chemicals that can ignite cancer cells.
12. As small as it may seem, lowering stress levels can help prevent breast cancer and other types of diseases. Stress suppresses the immune system and is a major cause of multiple illnesses.
13. Breast size does not impact your risk for cancer, but obesity does. There is a higher risk for breast cancer in women who gain weight or carry excess weight, due to higher levels of estrogen.
14. Overall, exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer for women with all body types, according to Dr. Leslie Bernstein at City of Hope. The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to manage risk, but something small as 30 minutes can be beneficial as well. Exercise is also beneficial to breast cancer survivors, to help prevent the cancer from returning.
15. Minimizing alcohol intake is also a preventative measure. That means, restrict yourself to one alcoholic beverage per day.
16. If you are a mother with a newborn baby or infant, research suggests that breastfeeding for a year or more, slightly reduces the overall risk of breast cancer - about a 4.3% reduction for every 12 months of breastfeeding. Why? Breastfeeding often interrupts menstrual cycles, meaning less of them, which leads to less estrogen exposure. Other studies suggest that the reduced risk can be credited to structural changes in the breast after lactation and weaning.
To sum it all up: living in a way that is healthy can help prevent your risk of breast cancer. Getting routinely screened, as well as your yearly mammograms can also prevent breast cancer, as well as detect any abnormalities early. Although a frightening subject to face, remember that you are not alone. We are all committed to fighting breast cancer, spreading awareness and facts, and hopefully being one step closer to a cure.