Ugh, breast cancer, amirite? It’s sort of like a terrible sitcom in that no one can find a redeeming quality about it anywhere. But unlike Hollywood bigwigs who continue to give life to horrible television programs, you can do something to lower your risk of breast cancer. (Also maybe turn off the TV and just walk away, people.) Life in Pleasantville is working with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation on their One New Thing (#OneNewThing) campaign to help raise awareness about breast cancer because you are not powerless.
This is not like the time that ballsy lady at the supermarket took your spot in line when you stepped out for a sec to put the Super Crunch Smack-a-Roos back on the shelf, or like when your high school nemesis totally stole Brad Gallant as a prom date when she knew you liked him first and you’d already bought a dress to match his living room drapes so the photos would be amazing. This time you have agency and power, and we’re going to tell you how by discussing One New Thing you may not know about breast cancer, and we’re going to do it 10 times. We’re givers like that.
Family History May Matter Less than you Think
Just 5–10% of breast cancers are linked to family history. Most breast cancers are due to a combination of other factors – including things you can change in your lifestyle.
You can thank mom for your curly hair and your grandmother for your sassy attitude. Your daughter has your sense of humour and I bet somewhere on a really high branch of your family tree an aunt of yours once knew she’d have a future relative as awesome as you and maybe even proclaimed such in the town square before they burned her as a witch. But that’s as far as you can go when assessing your breast cancer risk, because it’s just not a strong correlative anymore. Sorry. (And sorry about your great-great-great-great-aunt.)
Your Risk Increases with Age
Although younger woman do develop breast cancer, getting older is one of the biggest contributing factors. Living well and regular screening are your best defenses against breast cancer. Use the slider to see how common breast cancer is for your age
More candles on the cake, more risk you’ll light your hair on fire leaning over to blow them out. Also? The more chance of developing breast cancer. This year, why not treat yourself to a bigger piece of cake and maybe a physical check-up with your family doctor? We know you’re putting it off, because women often don’t care for themselves first. Go ahead; make the appointment. Eat your cake and have it, too.
Being Active Helps at Any Age
Regular physical activity helps reduce your risk of breast cancer. A healthier body weight is key. And the benefits of being active begin as soon as you start, no matter how old you are.
Let’s be honest – most of us could use more activity, and running after the ice cream truck doesn’t count. Small steps add up to big differences so try adding just a few incremental minutes every day until you’re raising your heart rate for a sustained period. Try something fun and learn new things – maybe stunt dirt-biking is in your future? But start slow – perhaps a run around the block before you sign up for the X Games.
It’s Beneficial to be Breast Aware
Even though some breast changes are normal, other changes are not. Know how your breasts normally look and feel, so that any unusual changes can be discussed with a health care provider.
Go on; touch yourself. We promise – you won’t go blind. In fact, you may just save your life. Encourage everyone you know to touch themselves, too. Let’s start a movement of all hands on chest.
Early Detection and Screening Saves Lives
Regular screening can find earlier signs of breast cancer – including tumors that are too small to feel. In most cases, finding the disease earlier offers more effective treatment options and a better chance of survival.
Talk to your doctor (you were going to make an appointment, remember?) and ask about the protocol for mammograms and other current diagnostic procedures. We know they’re never going to be fun, but many things aren’t. Steal a lollipop from the bowl on the way out; that might make you feel a bit better.
Variety is Better than any One “Super Food”
There is no clear evidence that eating “super foods” – or any one type of food – can help prevent breast cancer. However, maintaining a healthier body weight by eating a variety of foods and smaller portions is a great way to reduce your risk.
This is good news to those of us who’ve been eating nothing but kale and acai berries since 2011. You’ll still want to eat a diet rich in vitamins and heavy in foods that once had roots attached, but don’t get caught up in the next craze, because abandoning balance isn’t good and everyone needs a bowl of ice cream once in a while.
Every Drink Increases Your Risk
A glass of red wine may be good for the heart, but no amount of alcohol is good for your breasts. It’s not the type of alcohol that increases your risk of breast cancer, but how much you drink and how often.
I’m going to pretend I didn’t see this one.
ALRIGHT, FINE. I will take this into consideration and start substituting something else for wine on occasion. Small steps, right?
Smoking Can Cause More than Lung Cancer
Both smoking and second-hand smoke have been linked to breast cancer. Quitting can be hard but two days without a cigarette can leave your body nicotine-free.
In addition to lung cancer, smoking causes bad breath, stinky clothes and hair, wrinkles, blemished skin, less money in your wallet, and all other types of crappy things like breast cancer. Wait; why is anyone smoking again?
Hormones Can Have a Big Impact
Taking synthetic hormones like those found in combined birth control pills or combined hormone replacement therapies (with estrogen and progesterone) can increase your risk for breast cancer.
This one is going to require more than a perfunctory Google search in your underwear. Hormones and birth control pills may be a necessity for some people, so they should talk to their health care provider about the risk/benefit ratio and discuss whether reasonable effective alternatives exist.
Earth Friendly is Often Breast Friendly
Exposure to chemicals in our environment and in everyday products we use at home may increase our risk of breast cancer. Put your health first and choose simpler options when it comes to food, make-up and personal care products.
No one is saying you need to stop shaving your armpits and buy a herd of alpacas to provide wool for making your own toilet paper. But if you want to start using eco-friendly cleaners and beauty products, that’s a great start. How about beginning with baking soda and vinegar as cleansers, and maybe see how that goes before heading to Pinterest to search “crochet patterns for maxi pads.”
Try to incorporate One New Thing every week. Take a Breast Cancer Risk/Awareness test to see how your current lifestyle stacks up and get some risk awareness. And please, let us know how – and what – you’re doing to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Image Sources: WikiCommons, WikiMedia