How to Prevent Breast Cancer

I was thrilled to see this newly-released video clip from Serena Williams this week. She partnered with the I Touch Myself Project to encourage more women to screen themselves this October for Breast Cancer awareness month!

My grandmother – my only living grandparent – is a breast cancer survivor. I was so grateful to have her by my side on my wedding day in August, thanks in large part to her early detection, which made her case a relatively easy one to resolve. After having a small lump removed from her breast over 10 years ago, she’s been in full remission since.

Early detection is key to eradicating cancer, and for women under 40, it’s especially important for us to be vigilant. In recent years, rates of breast cancer have gone up fastest among women age 25 to 34 from all ethnic backgrounds, in rural areas as well as cities.

Here are 3 ways to detect breast cancer early:

Consider adding these practices into your routine, and share this post with the women in your life, too.

1. Monthly self-exams.

Get to know your boobs! I can’t stress this enough! We should be our own best experts on what is and is not normal for our particular pair.

Examine your own breasts once a month to keep an eye out for any changes. How can you remind yourself to do this every month? Tie it to something else you do once a month like getting your period. If that doesn’t work, set a recurring calendar alert to remind you to do it.

I found this quick video helpful when learning how to conduct my own exam, but remember: don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good! Even if you only have a minute or two to check yourself, do it. A quick self-exam is better than none at all.

2. Learn about your family history

While only 5 to 10% of breast cancer diagnoses are considered hereditary, find out if you’re at risk. Ask your family members about their cancer history and their parent’s cancer history. Sometimes in an effort to be discrete, grandmothers’ diagnoses were whispered about instead of talked about more openly.

Most inherited cases of breast cancer have to do with mutations in two genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2.  While everyone has those genes in our DNA, mutations that may be present and passed down generation to generation can dramatically increase your risk of developing cancer.

People are considered substantially more likely to have a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer if:

  • You have blood relatives on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family who had breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50.
  • There are cases of both breast and ovarian cancer on the same side of the family, or in a single individual.
  • There are other cancers in your family in addition to breast, such as prostate, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, uterine, thyroid, colon, and/or sarcoma.
  • Women in your family have had cancer in both breasts.
  • You are of Ashkenazi Jewish (Eastern European) heritage.
  • A man in your family has had breast cancer.

The good news is, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer and suspect you might have a genetic mutation, there are now tests available to determine if you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor for more information.

3. Talk with a health professional – and don’t let them dismiss you

If you’re concerned about any changes in your breasts or your risk of genetic mutation, talk assertively with your doctor about it. Some medical professionals might brush you off because you seem otherwise healthy and young, but don’t let them deter you.

Allison Henning was diagnosed with breast cancer before she turned 30 and spoke with NPR to share her experience and warn other young, otherwise healthy women. “If you think that something’s wrong or feels funny, follow through yourself,” she said. “Don’t allow your doctors to dismiss it just based on your age. You have to be your own advocate.”

 

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Emilie Aries is an internationally-recognized speaker, podcaster, writer, and the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up.

Learn more and book Emilie to speak at your next event at wwwEmilieAries.com