Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Woman's Health Guide
Hey Guys, so as we all know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month & I think that it's a great time to spark meaningful conversations about the disease. My job hosts different events during the work day for employees', with guest speakers discussing topics such as diversity in the workplace, working on your personal brand, and most recently Breast Cancer Awareness. (side note ugh I'm so thankful for this job!) One thing that I learned from this event is that breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women, which is mind-blowing! It is a scary thought, but it's important that these numbers are discussed to increase awareness. The event was set up as a panel discussion, and informational pamphlets were given out afterwards. I'll share more of my takeaways from the event below!
Steps to Breast Self-Examination
Women should start monthly breast self exams (BSEs) beginning in their 20s. Below are some breast self-examination tips:
Step 1. Look Stand in front of the mirror and turn from side to side to look for any changes in the shape, color, or texture of your breasts and nipples. Look in the mirror in these four positions:
- arms relaxed at your side
- body bent forward with hands on hips
- hands on hips with tightened chest muscles
- arms raised over head
Step 2. Examine Your Breasts Lie on your back and place the hand of the breast being examined behind your head, with a pillow under your same shoulder. Or in the shower you can place the hand of the breast being examined behind your head - fingers tend to glide easier over wet skin.
How to Examine: 1. Use the 3 middle fingers of the opposite hand and feel closely for lumps 2. Move fingers in dime size circles using three different types of pressure - light, medium, and deep in a vertical pattern 3. Check the outer, upper part of the breast toward the armpit - about half of all breast cancers are found here 4. Use pads of fingers to check for lumps or thickening (sources: www.beatcancerCR.com & uniteforher.org)
What are mammograms? An x-ray of the breast that is used to look for breast cancer, and it is a procedure that will last about 20 minutes. During the procedure your breasts are compressed between two plastic plates.
There are two types of mammograms:
- A screening mammogram - used to detect any signs of early breast cancer before the symptoms appear
- A diagnostic mammogram - look for breast cancer in women who have symptoms
When to get one?
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. (source: American Cancer Society)
At the end of the discussion panelists were asked to give a piece of advice to women to stay healthy. One panelist said that her advice would sound simple, but that she didn't want to simplify the severity of the disease. Her word of advice was to eat as many vegetables as you can. It does sound so simple, but it is so important. Now, I'm nobodies vegan LOL, but I do try to fit fruits and veggies into my diet on a daily basis. I'm also working on eating more plant-based meals. To me it makes so much since, we eat and breathe in sooo many toxins. Fruits and vegetables help us to detox and keep our cells healthy. This is the food that God has put on earth for us.
"A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check." - Harvard School of Public Health
With that I want to note that a lot of our fruits and veggies have high levels of pesticides and chemicals when grown. Here are the dirty dozen, foods identified as containing the highest level of chemicals and pesticides, that we should buy organic:
strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers (source: Environmental Working Group, 2016)
Unhealthy Beauty Products
The last takeaway that I want to note, is the importance of using healthy beauty products. These chemicals are absorbed in our skin. I know for me personally that's why I was first drawn to the Shea Moisture hair care line, due to it's healthy ingredients. I also use a handmade soap sold at my local grocery store. I'm on the search for a natural deodorant brand as well! The last natural deodorant that I tried didn't work for me to say the least lol, so I'm still on the hunt. It's hard to completely eliminate all of the products that we use, but for me my main thing is trying to limit the use of those that may be harmful.
Some ingredients that we should say "no" to are: BHT/BHA, Phthalates, Sulfates, Synthetic Fragrances, Parabens, Petrochemicals. (source: Environmental Working Group, 2016)
I hope you ladies found this guide helpful. I can say I've learned a lot just from the handouts given to me at the event. Feel free to comment below with any additional tips on how we can stay healthy as women! I'd also love to hear about any healthy lotion and deodorant recommendations.