Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Educating Ourselves

As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While breast cancer, itself, is a terrible thing, one could understand the appreciation that survivors and people impacted indirectly by it have for this month. We wear our pink ribbons, “paint the town pink,” run various 5k races all to show our support, which is absolutely beautiful to see as the community comes together to take part in it all.

There is also a ton of buzz about this particular form of cancer, especially when you consider the celebrity attention drawn to the issue. An example of this would be Angelina Jolie making the brave and proactive decision to undergo a double mastectomy upon learning that she possessed the genes sharply increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Granted we’ve heard a ton, but are we armed with the facts? The absolute most important thing we can do to prevent breast cancer is to be educated, so let’s break down some common misconceptions and see what we actually know.

Can only women develop breast cancer? No; women AND men are at risk for developing breast cancer, though the risk is higher in females.

Which genes are important in determining breast cancer risk? Inherited mutations or changes to the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes can significantly increase the risk of breast cancer, as well as other cancers. This applies to moth women and men.

Are there lifestyle changes I can make to lower my risk? Exercising at least four hours per week, avoiding obesity, decreasing or altogether ceasing alcohol consumption, and many other small changes can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

One other thing that I should mention is that your best chance of beating breast cancer is early detection. Keep those appointments for regularly scheduled mammograms and don’t feel awkward about examining yourself because one check up each year is not going to cut it. If you notice any lumps or irregularities, don’t diagnose yourself, but definitely go in to consult your doctor because you’re better safe than sorry.

For information about performing a self-exam and what you should be looking for, check out http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/breastcancerearlydetection/breast-cancer-early-detection-acs-recs-bse

There’s also this Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, which takes information from a survey you answer and tries to assess your potential risk. Again, don’t diagnose yourself and these results guarantee nothing, but it might help you figure out what changes you can make in your life to lower your risk

http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

 

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