Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During October, we spend the whole month raising awareness to this disease. We do walks, fund raisers, and athletes across the country wear the color pink to help raise awareness for breast cancer. In this week’s blog we are going to discuss what breast cancer is, who it commonly affects, how to reduce your risk, how to diagnose it and, lastly, how to treat it.
We must first identify what breast cancer is. Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when a cell does not know when to stop multiplying. This is due to a mutation in a particular cell, which basically deletes the cell’s instructions for when to stop multiplying. If this mutation is present, then an individual’s cell will continue to divide and overtake an area of the body, resulting in what we call cancer. In this case, a woman or man’s breast cell will contain the mutation that causes it to keep on dividing resulting in a cluster of cells. This cluster is what most feel in their breast when breast cancer is originally detected.
Now a gene mutation is something that someone may be born with or it can occur over time. A mutation may lie dormant until turned on by an environmental factor. To put it into perspective, yes you are at higher risk if your grandmother and mother both developed breast cancer yet that does not mean that you are destined to get breast cancer as well. Your lifestyle habits and environmental choices play a huge role in whether or not that cancerous gene gets turned on.
This is why it is important to perform monthly checks of your breasts, as well as take an active role in taking care of your overall health. Below is a list of a few things that you can do in order to reduce your risk of developing cancer and/or having your cancer spread.
- Perform monthly breast examinations: The best way to do this is to not only examine your breast but also your armpit and any area surrounding the collar bone. Make sure you are laying down and when doing this, you are looking for any lumps, swelling, and/or tender areas. If you experience any of the follow, make an appointment with your health care provider.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking is bad for obvious reasons. It contains harmful chemicals that are directly linked to causing cancer. Although it can be a hard habit to break, if you want to drastically reduce your risk of developing cancer, avoid smoking at all costs.
- Eat a healthy diet: In last week’s blog we said “you are what you eat” and you will notice that this is a reoccurring quote for us. Some foods that we commonly eat have carcinogenic ingredients in them. Carcinogenic means cancer causing. Some of these foods include, but are not limited to: refined flour and sugar, processed meats, hydrogenated oils, alcohol, soda, artificial sweeteners, farmed fish and more. Always read the labels and know what you are eating.
- Be aware of the products that you are using: Many of the common household products that we use also contain carcinogenic ingredients in them. Some examples include but are not limited to: household cleaners, perfumes, nail polish, lotions, make-up, body wash, hair dye, fragrance, and candles. Check out a previous blog of ours titled “This Earth Day Clean the Environment of Your Mind and Body”—in that blog we mention a thing called the “Never List.” This list is from the company Beautycounter and it contains a list of chemicals that you should never put on your body due to the harmful health risks. Just like with a healthy diet, you should also read the ingredients of the products you use. Not sure what one of the ingredients are? Google it and make sure you are making informed choices about what products you are putting on your skin.
It is a common thought that breast cancer only occurs in women, however that is not true. While it is more common for women to develop breast cancer, a man can develop it as well. In the end, developing breast cancer comes down to two things: your genetics and your lifestyle choices. As we said earlier, just because your mother had breast cancer that does not mean you are destined to develop it too. However, it does increase your chances if you are not careful with your lifestyle habits.
Breast cancer, and any other kind of cancer, forms in stages. It does not originate at its highest most intense stage. This is why early detection and prevention are so important. If you can catch cancer at an earlier stage, there is a higher chance that treatment can help combat it.
This is why it is important to do monthly self breast examinations. This is is the simplest and easiest way to detect any abnormalities. When doing these monthly checks, make sure you are laying on your back. Begin by palpating the breast with one hand while the opposite hand gets raised over your head. You are looking for any lumps, tenderness, and/or anything just out of the ordinary. Include your armpit and any area surrounding your collarbone.
The earlier the diagnosis of breast cancer, the better the chances of treatment being successful. There are a few different treatment methods depending on the stage of breast cancer:
- Surgery: This surgery involves not only removing the cancer, but also removing the breast. By doing this you are removing the cancer and decreasing its chances of coming back.
- Medical procedures / medications: This can include chemotherapy and radiation. These two are the most common forms of treatment towards cancer. However, they can have more drastic side effects than the other forms of treatment.
This October take your health into your hands. Learn more about your chances of developing breast cancer and do all that you can to decrease those odds. If you or someone you know is battling not only breast cancer, but any kind of cancer, be sure to let them know how strong they are and that they are not alone in this fight.