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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we are bringing you all you need to know about how to protect yourself and how to get involved. Breast cancer is relatively uncommon among women under 35, but the risk increases with age. According to U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. But – on the brighter side, last year there were more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells that occurs when normal cells within the breast tissue change and develop malignant (potentially dangerous) properties. The changed cell continues to divide without control, which produces more abnormal cells and eventually forms a tumor. With time, the cancerous cells can invade healthy breast tissue, making their way into the underarm lymph nodes. If this happens, the dangerous cells have a way into other parts of the body. A common myth is that only women get breast cancer, but because we all have breast tissue, men can also get breast cancer – although it is extremely rare.

Every person can take the following steps to help the body stay healthy and lower the risk of breast cancer.

Know Your Family History
The risk of breast cancer significantly increases if a first-degree relative such as a mother or a sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer. If this is the case, it is important to get the facts and know when the relative was diagnosed. Make sure to talk to a doctor about ways to protect yourself against breast cancer.

Get In Touch
For women in their 20s, the American Cancer Society urges women to have a clinical breast exam (CBE) routinely. Also, taking a few minutes to do a breast self-exam (BSE) can make all the difference. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, nearly 70% of breast cancers are discovered through self-exams and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98%. Finding a lump does not necessarily mean it is breast cancer – 8 out of 10 lumps are not dangerous. If you take the time to know your body, it will be easier to notice changes.

How To Do a Breast Self-Exam:
(National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.)

In the Shower
Fingers flat, move gently over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast. Check for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Carefully observe any changes in your breasts.

Before a Mirror
Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour of each breast, a swelling, a dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Then rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do.

Lying Down

Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With the fingers of your left hand flat, press your right breast gently in small circular motions, moving vertically or in a circular pattern covering the entire breast. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

Eat Right and Stay Active
Your mom wasn’t lying when she told you to “eat your vegetables” as a child. Fruits and veggies have a fiber content, antioxidants and micronutrients that are good for your heart and can prevent certain cancers. Eating leaner meats (less red meat) and reducing your fat intake may reduce your chance of getting breast and colon cancers.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, working out a moderate amount on most days of the week can prevent many health problems. Know your recommended body weight by a health professional, as excess fat could potentially increase the production of estrogen.

Get Involved!
Check out some of these organizations that focus on breast cancer research and awareness. Also, Look out for some of the 5K runs in Chapel Hill!


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