October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk tatas.
First, a few facts from breastcancer.org:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women; Heart Disease being the first.
- In 2014, an estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,570 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
- Cases of Stage 0 Cancer or Precancerous cells, more often than not, are not reported; therefore, the number of women actually affected by the physical and emotional consequences of having a cancer diagnoses are suspected to be understated.
Although this data could be interpreted as daunting and depressing, pay specific attention to the fourth and fifth facts above. Incident rates of Breast Cancer have been decreasing since 2000 and despite breast cancer numbers being, albeit, staggeringly high for women without a family history, the genetic mutations are attributed to – ahem – life in general. What does this mean? It means that your lifestyle has an impact on your health! Not exactly news, but new in the context of managing a disease of this magnitude.
Take a moment to consider the impact if more women were to pay attention to the breast cancer risk factors within their control and take measures to manage them actively and effectively! Think of the decreases in breast cancer incidents, the decreases in the exorbitant feelings of stress and anxiety for the women diagnosed and those who care about them, the hope for girls and women who have not yet been affected but who will have lower likelihoods of diagnoses, and the overall shift in our culture towards healthier living and thus a subsequent decrease in other chronic diseases for both men and women. A seemingly small change has a LARGE IMPACT on the greater well-being of our society.
So how does this impact you? We’ve established that breast cancer is considered PREVENTABLE through lifestyle changes and establishing good healthful habits. Even if your family history includes cancer, you do not have to consider your fate sealed. Think of your genetics like a puppy. If you train the puppy well with good habits, feed it high-quality food with few cheap fillers, take it for walks, let it play with you and with puppy friends, and provide the puppy with a calm, loving environment, positive reinforcement and a sense of boundaries, the puppy is not very likely to bite you or become unruly. However, if you treat the puppy poorly by neglecting him, starving him of attention and of nutritious food, being aggressive, etc., the risk increases. The same is true with your genetics. By taking care of yourself, your mental health, emotional health, physical health and spiritual well-being, the risks decrease.
Here are a few easy habits to consider for your “Practices of Prevention”:
– Perform monthly breast self-exams & visit your gynecologist yearly for annual checkup’s.
Encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same. For tips on performing your own breast exams, click here.
– Abolish “sugar-free” foods, diet drinks and artificial sweeteners from your diet.
Just do it. Consuming the chemicals in these products are like dousing formaldehyde directly onto your brain. Gross. Studies also show your body responds similarly to these substances as it does to real sugar. Are the additional detrimental effects of these compounds really worth it?
– Speaking of sugar… Cut back on sugar.
Get a load of this: Ketchup, spaghetti sauce, breads, milk and other very common staples are laden with hidden sugar. Fat-free diet foods are the worst! Read the labels and buy smart. Sugar is a high contributor to inflammation in the body. Chronic systemic inflammation breeds cellular dysfunction, which leads to various disorders, which, when left untreated, can lead to cancer. Kick it outta your diet! Experiment with various natural sweeteners, like date sugar, stevia, agave, honey, etc.
– Manage your stress.
Like sugar, stress creates an inflammatory response throughout your whole body. Finding ways to manage your stress in a healthy manner, such as through a gratitude practice, meditation, exercise, journaling, hiking, nature walks, time with positive & supportive people, establishing self-care practices and positive self-talk helps relieve any chance of excess inflammation, which reduce your risk for the other chronic diseases, like heart disease or depression.
– Quit Smoking (or do not start).
I think we all know this one. If you’re a smoker, just stop. If you’re not a smoker, don’t even consider it. You’d be surprised, but women in their 20s and 30s are actually notorious for picking up a cig here and there while bar hopping or partying, which brings me to…
– Keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum.
Do not binge drink. If you do want to have a few cocktails, avoid the mixed drinks, like daiquiris, and watch your mixers, like orange juice or margarita mix. Adding these sugary to your alcohol wreak havoc on your blood sugar and pretty much spell hangover. Another helpful hint: drink a glass of water for every round, and for you forgetful types, a friendly reminder to eat before hitting that holiday punchbowl or bottle of wine with your sweetie.
– Know the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists, and spend your money accordingly.
Pay now, or pay later, as my father says. Isn’t it worth the investment to buy organic apples, berries, cucumbers and lettuces now vs. paying that price premium in the form of healthcare costs later on? For a printable guide, check out this one from the Environmental Working Group.
– Know your meat and dairy.
These days, most meats and dairy products contain hormones, antibiotics and a slew of other sludge that you would never knowingly put into your sweet system. Do your research. Know what you’re putting in your body, and buy organic, cage-free, grass-fed, antibiotic-free animal products. Meatless Mondays or similar efforts are also a fun way to cut back on food costs (animal products are expensive!) and parlay into fun nights experimenting with other cuisines, like Indian, for example that is a primarily plant-based diet. Added Benefit: exotic cuisines are heavy on spices that have added health benefits, like my favorites turmeric & ginger, for instance, which are heavy hitters when it comes to reducing chronic systemic inflammation.
As with all potentially life-altering diseases, simply digesting the beaucoup of information can feel overwhelming, let alone trying to integrate the best practices the health professionals recommend into your lifestyle. Those of us prone to fretting can easily panic when faced with so many statistics, as well as the laundry list of preventable measures touted on websites, news shows, and celebrity blogs. But, like they say, you can’t eat an elephant in one bite, and the best advice is to simply do the best you can as often as you can. Simply being aware of better choices is a step in the right direction. Over time, the changes will easily find their way into your daily routine, and you’ll hardly remember the days when you chose differently.
As always, we’d like to hear your thoughts, so drop us a note below.