October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
The Babes and I were at Weber’s Farm when the topic of Breast Cancer Awareness Month came up. As many of you probably know, October is Breast Cancer awareness month. So we figured it would behoove us all to brush up on Breast Cancer facts, and home examination tips! All the information provided below was found on the National Breast Cancer Foundation website, and I am providing a link to local resources at the bottom.
What is Breast Cancer, and How Does it Happen?
Sometimes, the process of cell growth goes wrong and new cells form when the body doesn’t need them and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. When this occurs, a build up of cells often forms a mass of tissue called a lump, growth, or tumor.
Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors develop in the breast. These cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor and entering blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into tissues throughout the body. When cancer cells travel to other parts of the body and begin damaging other tissues and organs, the process is called metastasis.
Facts About Breast Cancer In The United States
One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die.
Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year.
On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
What causes Breast Cancer?
No one knows the exact causes of breast cancer. Doctors seldom know why one woman develops breast cancer and another doesn’t, and most women who have breast cancer will never be able to pinpoint an exact cause. What we do know is that breast cancer is always caused by damage to a cell's DNA.
What makes cancer grow?
Damaged cells replicate, creating more damaged cells and tumor growth.
Our body’s hormones and chemicals can accelerate the growth of some tumors.
Lymph and blood vessels can carry the cancer to others areas of the body, and lymph node examination can help pinpoint the progression of the disease.
The growth and spread of breast cancer can be difficult to grasp because cancer cell growth is often fueled by normally healthy chemicals of the body, like estrogen, progesterone, and the HER2/neu gene (a growth hormone). Although each of these three bodily chemicals can serve an important healthy function, when a cell becomes cancerous these chemicals can accelerate the growth of breast cancer tumors. Learn more here.
Un-Avoidable Risk Factors
Avoidable Risk Factors
Environmental And Lifestyle Risk Factors
Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.
Drinking Alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.
Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.
Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.
60-70% of people with breast cancer have no connection to these risk factors at all, and other people with risk factors will never develop cancer.
How to Self Examine
Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical center states,
“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”
While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.
How Should A Breast Self-Exam Be Performed?
In the shower.
In front of a mirror.
1) In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2) In Front of a Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3) Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Breast Cancer Screening via Mammogram is the only definite way to detect abnormalities in your breasts. Via the Affordable Care Act all health insurance must offer free breast cancer counseling, and screening for women 40 and over.