October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and this is your sign to get proactive about your breast health.
Debunking Breast Cancer Myths
- Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
- Men do not get breast cancer; it affects only women.
- Mammograms can cause cancer or spread it.
- Antiperspirants and deodorant cause cancer.
- Breast cancer only affects middle-aged to older women.
- Underwire bras cause cancer.
- Breast pain is a definite sign of breast cancer.
- Microwaves cause cancer.
- Carrying a phone in your bra will give you breast cancer.
- All breast cancers are the same.
- Consuming sugar causes breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc., breast cancer can be caused by a mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors. These include: age, race, family history, menstrual and reproductive history, lack of physical activity, alcohol, obesity, radiation and hormone replacement therapy. This is just a small sampling as there are many other risk factors as well.
Reducing your Risk of Breast Cancer
1. Physical Activity
It sounds like such a simple approach but eating healthy and being physically active can help reduce one’s risk for breast cancer, along with other diseases. It doesn’t prevent it 100% but your odds for developing breast cancer are reduced. Even exercising just 30 minutes a day (or three hours a week) can help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
2. Eating Healthy
Studies have shown that eating a low-fat diet that includes fruit and green and orange vegetables, helps lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
3. Limit Alcohol Intake
Doctors also stress avoiding or limiting your alcohol intake. Even just having one drink per day can increase your risk of developing cancer.
4. Reduce Stress Levels
Easier said then done, right? But studies have shown that how an individual reacts to stressful and traumatic life events and loss of those close to them, can possibly put them at a higher risk for cancer. Higher stress levels can alter your immune system, which can allow cancer cells to take hold. So, try to find some ways you can reduce stress in your life.
5. Getting Regular Mammograms
Know that if there is a genetic risk in your family not much can be done to change genetics. Genetics is what it is. I know that my grandmother had breast cancer and my mom had some cysts. This is why I’ve scheduled my first mammogram (on Halloween, of all days). Let’s hope there are no scares. Scheduling a mammogram was pretty easy, as I did it through my gynecologists’ office.
It’s important to note here that while genetics can play a part in developing breast cancer, only 5-10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of it. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation states that most women who have breast cancer, do not have a family history of the disease.
6. Perform Regular Self Breast Exams
In addition to mammograms, self breast exams are important. Just like flossing your teeth is an important part of daily dental care, self breast exams are a great preventative measure.
How to get Started Down a Healthier Path
If all this sounds intimidating and you’re not sure how to start with big changes, start with some baby steps.
1. Give your gynecologist or primary care physician a call and ask how to schedule a mammogram appointment. As a side note, there are mammogram alternatives like thermography, ultrasounds, and MRIs. But insurance doesn’t always cover these alternatives.
2. If weight and lack of physical activity are an issue for you, start by taking little breaks in between sitting at a desk. Walking is free and one of the easiest ways to include activity. If the weather is crummy outside, YouTube has so many walking videos, and you don’t need a lot of time to do it. You just have to do it!
3. Try to eat more healthy. Start with one task and build your way up. If sodas are a problem, trade soda for a seltzer water. (Bubly and Spindrift are my two personal favorites!) If chips are your weakness, try dried vegetable chips. The crunch and a little salt will trick your mind. Instead of eating out, pack a lunch you’re excited about. Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating boring dried chicken and broccoli all the time. Making small adjustments will stick with you rather than making huge changes. Over time you’ll see the change and feel better.
4. Remember, knowledge is power. When it comes to breast cancer awareness know your risks and what’s against you. Do what you can. Your health matters and you matter!
If you’ve been struck with breast cancer, or know someone who has, there are many amazing doctors and research centers to help someone cope. Your doctor doctor should be able to provide you with resources. There is also a phenomenal non-profit organization, Cancer of Many Colors, who help local survivors dealing with any sort of cancer. Lexington Medical Center and Prisma Health are two local hospitals with information for survivors as well.