If you are reading this post, chances are you have a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor that has battled cancer.
In 2018, it is estimated that 1,735,350 individuals living in the United States were diagnosed with a type of cancer.
To put that number in perspective, that is 100,000 more than the population of Phoenix, AZ (the 5th most populated city in the US).
Statistically, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. For this very reason, it is incredibly important to encourage early detection, education, and support.
Many women with breast cancer do not showcase any noticeable symptoms. Due to this fact, it is crucial to conduct regular breast screenings, such as mammograms.
Mammograms are one of the most important tools in identifying breast cancer early in the process. According to the American Cancer Society, for women of average risk:
- – Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- – Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- – Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- – Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- – All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
For women that are at high risk, the American Cancer Society recommends mammograms and a MRI every year, typically starting at age 30. Women at high risk includes:
- – Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools, which is based mainly on family history
- – Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (based on having had genetic testing)
- – Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves
- – Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
- – Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes
Outside of regularly scheduled mammograms, another valuable early detection method is conducting monthly breast self-exams.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends conducting these monthly exams in the shower to identify any lumps, in front of a mirror to check for visual changes, and lying down so the breast tissue spreads evenly across the chest.
If you find any abnormalities during these exams, schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider as quickly as possible.
Lifestyle changes can also play a significant role in helping reduce the risk of developing breast cancer:
Limit alcohol consumption
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. Based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk, try to limit yourself to less than 1 drink per day.
Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.
Control your weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
Be physically active
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
Breastfeeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect.
Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy
Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You might be able to manage your symptoms with non-hormonal therapies and medications.
If you or a family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many treatment options to combat the disease.
Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery are all common methods based on the location and severity of the cancer.
In all cases, it is important to surround the individual with a dedicated support system. Battling cancer is an incredibly difficult task, but being surrounded with family, friends, nurses, doctors, and others can make the challenging times better.
If you are would like to learn more about local support systems, be sure to check out the YMCA Livestrong program at your community YMCA.
If you are currently in the midst of fighting cancer, the Sona team is proud and urges you to fight on! If you ever need a resource to discuss medications, side effects, or lifestyle questions, our Sona pharmacists are happy to speak with you at any time.
If you would like to learn more about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society have extremely useful learning resources.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
If you would, please share this post on your personal social media outlets to help raise breast cancer awareness. You never know who could benefit from reading these prevention techniques.