Valecia Weeks, Health Editor for Houston Forward Times Newspaper, is the owner of Assuring Hands Doula & Massage Care. She is a Professional Licensed Massage Therapist as well as a Birth Doula. Valecia is also licensed and certified in Personal Training with NESTA and ZUMBA.
As we all know, October is breast cancer awareness month, but the reality is, every month should be breast cancer awareness. I know my grandmother used to tell me that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Of course, the best prevention for women who are high risk is to have a voluntary mastectomy. While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, a woman can protect herself by making every month breast cancer awareness and practicing early detection methods to help reduce known risk factors.
Take a poll and ask yourself, “Am I at risk?” Below are a few common risk factors associated with breast cancer in women:
- Starting your period young. For ladies who started their period before the age of 12, your chances of developing breast cancer is increased. This is possibly due to longer exposure to hormones from childhood to adulthood.
- Family history. Breast cancer can run in families, but don’t be alarmed…this is not an automatic death sentence. If someone in your immediate family (mother, sister, or daughter) has had breast cancer and you are concerned about your risks, you can request genetic testing to check your risk factor.
- Excessive drinking. Occasional alcohol consumption is okay, but when you consume more than two drinks a day, you increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Those women are almost 2 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who don’t drink.
- Smoking. For the most part, at any age, smoking increases your chances of getting breast cancer; but those who started smoking at a young age are at great risk because the breast cells are not finished developing and are more vulnerable to carcinogens.
- Consuming too many fatty foods. There is research done by the National Cancer Institute that indicates that women who consumed a high amount of fat in their diet are more likely to develop breast cancer than women who ate the least fat.
- Overweight. It’s not necessarily being over weight that increases the chance of breast cancer, but it’s when you decide to become overweight. Women who become obese after menopause increase their risk of developing breast cancer. There was a comparison done on women who gained more than 60 pounds between the age of 20 and menopause, and they had a much higher risk of breast cancer compared with women who gained fewer than 20 pounds during their adult life.
- Checking your breast. This is where monthly breast cancer awareness comes in. I know that we as women have very busy schedules, but performing monthly self exams can help with early detection. When breast cancer is detected at an early stage, the treatment is less aggressive and the survival rate is much higher. So, ladies, let’s do our monthly “boob job” and prevent our chances of developing breast cancer.
Knowing your risk factors are very important, but more importantly is making sure you do your annual gynecological checkups. If you notice a lump, hard knot or thick tissue, swelling, warmth, redness or darkening, dimples or puckering of the skin, itchy scaly sore or rash on the nipple, pulling in of your nipple or other area of the breast, sudden nipple discharge or a “new pain” in a distinguished spot on your breast that does not go away – DO NOT wait to go see your doctor to discuss these unusual changes. Call immediately and get in to be checked out.