Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Story provided by Katelyn McAdams, TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist, OSU Prevention Programs

Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer. More than 249,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year, and nearly 41,000 die from the disease.

Chances are you have a friend or family member who’s faced breast cancer. After all, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point during their lives, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). I know these numbers all too well as my amazing mother has successfully defeated the heart wrenching disease twice and my paternal grandmother once.

Over the years, a loop of pink ribbon has come to symbolize breast cancer awareness, and today the image of a pink ribbon can be found emblazoned on thousands of products, from apparel to dishware to office supplies. But there’s more to awareness than just wearing pink.

As mentioned, being breast cancer aware means supporting those who have been diagnosed and celebrating those in remission, but it also means raising awareness for the importance of things such as screenings and making sure your lifestyle and habits support a cancer free environment.

The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than might have happened if you’d waited for symptoms to start.

Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests. Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be found early and treated successfully.

Mammograms

Getting regular mammograms can help find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful. A mammogram can find breast changes that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. Results from many decades of research clearly show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early, less likely to need aggressive treatment and more likely to be cured. If you are at a higher risk for breast cancer due to family history, talk to your doctor about the type of early screenings that are right for you.

-Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.

-Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

-Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Clinical breast exam and breast self-exam

All women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a healthcare provider right away.

Below are 7 lifestyle habits that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says can help prevent breast cancer:

  1. Eat a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, and fish.
  2. Get regular physical exercise; at least 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) a week.
  3. Sleep well; at least 8 hours a night.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight by keeping an eye on your BMI.
  5. Don’t use tobacco and don’t drink alcohol (or drink very little).
  6. Breastfeed any children you have, if possible.
  7. Avoid unnecessary radiation exposure from medical imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans.

Lastly, if you are looking for a way to help raise funds for groundbreaking breast cancer research, life-saving education, and critical patient services, consider walking in the American Cancer Society event “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer – Oklahoma City.” It is taking place on Saturday, November 5th in the Oklahoma City Adventure District which is located at 2801 NE 50th St, OKC, OK. Registration begins at 7:30am and the walk (5k) begins at 9am.

You can find more information, as well as register, at http://makingstrides.acsevents.org/.