October has been designated as BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH but truth be told early detection and breast cancer awareness must be encouraged 365 days a year. As this month draws to an end, we will continue to educate and encourage both men and women to take measures to enhance their lives through early detection and prevention.
- breast cancer is not an illness that only affects women. In the USA 1% of those diagnosed yearly with breast cancer of various stages are men. The death rate for men diagnosed with breast cancer is almost double that of women because so few men get tested for breast cancer.
- In the USA breast cancer is the second most common cancer after skin cancer
- Research currently shows that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lives. That’s insane! Picture yourself in a room with 8 females. At least 1 female will surely develop breast cancer.
The risk of illness increases with age. The age group at highest risk are 50 to 69 years old for both men and women.
- Early detection saves lives!!!!! If breast cancer is diagnosed in its early stages the likelihood of you surviving for 5 years or more is about 90% so this is the reason why early detection is emphasized.
WHAT CAUSES BREAST CANCER?
No one knows the precise causes of breast cancer but we do know the main risk factors. Some risk factors include being older in age and having breast cancer in your family. Woman who have had ovarian cancer are at higher risk of developing breast cancer as well. About 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are inherited! Yes, you read correctly! Inherited! If breast cancer runs in your family please ask your healthcare provider to test you for 2 types of genes, called BRCA1 or BRCA2.
Ladies, Know and understand your reproductive history. What do I mean by this? Well, the more estrogen your body has made over time, the HIGHER your risk. So getting your period early, before age 12, starting menopause after age 55, never being pregnant, having your first child after age 30, not breast feeding all raise your lifetime exposure to estrogen and breast cancer risks.
Many women who received a drug called DES or diethylstilbestrol between the years 1940 to 1971 to prevent miscarriages are at high risk for breast cancer. Being overweight after menopause, drinking alcohol, taking hormone replacement therapy, being inactive all are risk factors.
Before we talk about how to detect breast cancer, let’s tackle some MYTHS first. The following factors DO NOT! I repeat DO NOT increase your risks of developing breast cancer!
- using antiperspirants
- wearing underwire bras
- having an abortion or miscarriage
- multiple pregnancies
- coffee and caffeine
- using hair dye
DETECTING BREAST CANCER
I am going to write this in all caps because it is so important!!!
KNOW HOW YOUR BREASTS NORMALLY LOOK AND FEEL SO YOU CAN NOTICE ANY CHANGES!!!
Ladies, the best time to examine your breasts is usually 1 week AFTER your period starts. Try to self examine your breasts the same time each month and report ANY changes to your healthcare provider immediately. Look for changes in size, skin tone, lumps, changes in your nipples including discharge from your nipple.
Other methods of detecting breast cancer are through mammograms, Breast MRI, Breast Ultrasound
Ages 45 to 54 get yearly mammograms
Ages 55 and older can switch to getting a mammogram every other year or just continue with your yearly mammograms. It’s very important to discuss these things with your doctor or healthcare provider
Ages 40 to 44, it’s ok to start a yearly mammogram especially if you’re at high risk but again discuss this with your doctor or healthcare provider
Eating a healthy well balanced diet, exercising, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy weight all help with preventing and even fighting cancer.
WHERE IN NYC & NJ TO GET FREE MAMMOGRAMS?
If you do not have a provider, no health insurance, are undocumented and need a mammogram please call 311 in NYC to find a screening site near you. If you are 40 years old or older you can get a free mammogram at The American Italian Cancer Foundation’s Mobile Care Clinic by calling toll free1-877-628-9090. They will bring their mobile mammogram van to you!
In New Jersey anyone can get a free mammogram regardless of insurance status or citizen status at University Hospital every Wednesday from 10am to 2pm, location is 140 Bergen Street in Newark NJ, go to level F at the hospital. Requirements include 40 years of age or older. Tel# 973-972-1025
( please note that free Pap smears and Colorectal exams are also offered at this location )
By Baraka Dimson, RN, BSN, MSN, Director of Inpatient Services at New York Presbyterian, in collaboration with Calvary Hospice
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