October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
We strongly support this cause as we realize that most of our customers are the daughter of a senior parent, or grandparent. We are giving back to help these loving mothers, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters have a chance to prevent or fight off this disease.
Bay Alarm Medical is proud to be partnering with the American Cancer Society to help spread breast cancer awareness. During the month of October we will be donating a portion of our profits to help fund breast cancer research efforts.
To kick things off, we’ve complied for you an article all about breast cancer. We hope this helps you feel encouraged to find out more about breast cancer. The more you know, the more power you have to stop it from affecting you and your loved ones.
We’ve included some resources at the end for you to find out more, or see how you can get involved in the American Cancer Society’s efforts to spread breast cancer awareness.
The New Face of Breast Cancer “Pre-vivors”
Last May Angelina Jolie made huge waves in the media after she publicly announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer.
Through medical screenings, Jolie discovered that she had inherited a genetic defect known as BRCA1. Those with the defect have a 65% risk of getting breast cancer, and are at an increased risk of getting ovarian cancer as well. Jolie‘s mother died of cancer at the young age of 56, which increased her personal odds of getting breast cancer to 87%.
Jolie underwent three months of medical procedures to remove her natural breasts, and construct artificial breasts. She says she made the tough decision for her family. She wanted to be able to assure her children that they wouldn’t have to fear losing her to breast cancer. Post-surgery, her chances of developing breast cancer have now dropped from 87% to 5%, thus making her a cancer pre-vivor.
Jolie wrote an article in the New York Times about her decision, hoping to inspire other women to find the same courage to get tested too. She states “I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living in the shadow of cancer. If is my hope that they too, will know they have strong options.” (New York Times, “My Medical Choice,” Paragraph 19).
Breast Cancer Statistics (source: American Cancer Society)
- About 1 in 8 women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- For women in the US, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
- Breast Cancer death rates have actually been declining since 1990. Especially in women under age 50. These decreases are perceived to be the result of advanced treatment options, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
- Risk of getting breast cancer almost doubles if a woman has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. An estimated 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member who was diagnosed with the disease.
What Is Breast Cancer?
The term cancer refers to “a group of diseases that cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control” (American Cancer Society, “What is breast cancer?”). These cells then form a mass within the breast tissue. Cancer occurs as the result of gene mutations, which cause cells to grow at an out of control exponential rate; which then forms tumors.
Benign tumors are not dangerous to your health, as they grow slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors, however, are very dangerous for your health. They grow at an extremely quick rate and can eventually spread to other parts of your body, including vital organs.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors That You Can Control (source: American Cancer Society)
- Weight– Being overweight is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, especially for women in their 50s (post-menopausal). More fat tissue means having higher estrogen levels, which can increase breast cancer risk.
- Diet– Diet is a suspected risk factor many types of cancer, but studies have yet to exactly show which types of food increase risk. It’s probably a good idea to restrict sources of red meat and other animal fats (including dairy fat in cheese, milk, and ice cream) as they may contain hormones, other chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides. A low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended.
- Smoking– Right now there is limited evidence that smoking causes breast cancer. However, some studies suggest there is a relationship between secondhand smoke and breast cancer.
- Exposure to estrogen– “Reproductive hormones are thought to influence breast cancer risk by increasing cell proliferation, thereby increasing the likelihood of DNA damage, as well as promotion of cancer growth.”
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:
- “swelling of all or part of the breast”
- “skin irritation or dimpling”
- “breast pain”
- “nipple pain or the nipple turning inward”
- “redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin”
- “a nipple discharge other than breast milk”
- “a lump in the underarm area”
These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not necessarily cancer, such as an infection or a cyst. It’s important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.
Breast Cancer Screenings
As a result of Angelina Jolie’s bravery in taking preventative measures against cancer, there has been an increase in women with a family history of cancer, who had been putting off testing, requesting screenings from their doctors.
Furthermore, a month after her announcement, the Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision that made the company Myriad Genetics patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene tests invalid; meaning that more people can now afford to get tested, as Myriad’s competitors will be able to offer the tests at reduced cost.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are three different categories of breast-cancer-related tests:
- Screening tests– “Screening tests (such as yearly mammograms) are given to people who appear to be healthy and are not suspected of having breast cancer. Their purpose is to find breast cancer early, before any symptoms can develop and the cancer is usually easier to treat.”
- Diagnostic tests– “Diagnostic tests (such as biopsy) are given to people who are suspected of having breast cancer, either because of symptoms they may be experiencing or a screening test result. These tests are used to gather more information about the cancer to guide decisions about treatment.”
- Monitoring tests– “Once breast cancer is diagnosed, many tests are used during and after treatment to monitor how well therapies are working. Monitoring tests also may be used to check for any signs of recurrence.”
Who Should Get Tested and How Often
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every year. This should continue as long as she is in good health and is not suffering from major diseases, heart conditions, or dementia.
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE (clinical breast exam) as part of their regular health check-ups every 3 years. Once they hit 40, they should have one every year.
- Women can start doing BSEs (breast self-examination) as early as their 20s. They should report any changes in appearance or feel of their breasts to their doctors right away.
- Anyone who has a family history of cancer may want to consider getting predictive genetic testing. This is done to see if you have the gene mutation that causes cancer, and may eventually develop the disease.
Caring For Someone With Breast Cancer
Dealing with cancer is tough, to say the least. Here are a few things you can do to help your loved one battling with breast cancer:
- Help keep track of their medications- keep a list of any prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and other supplements that the person takes.
- Give them rides to their appointments, treatments, and to go pick up their prescriptions.
- Consider getting your loved one a medical alert system.
Cancer patients are often weak after chemotherapy treatments, and may not be able to get over to the phone in case of an emergency. With a medical alert system, they get safety and you get peach of mind knowing that help is just a button-push away. Find out how they work here.
- Listen. Don’t try to tell the person how to feel about their cancer. Just listen and try to be as supportive as you can. Don’t let your own fears influence discussions.
- Make sure to set aside some time just for you. Caregivers need time to rest and recover in order to be a strong pillar of support for your loved one with cancer.
- For more tips and information, go to: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/index
Breast Cancer Resources
For more information on breast cancer, talk to your local healthcare provider. Be sure to visit the American Cancer Society website section on breast cancer at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/index. Here’s Angelina Jolie’s article for the New York Times if you’re interested in reading what helped her shape her decision.
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