I got to learn the true facts about breast cancer when I lost my good friend Mariam. She was only 35 years old. The last two years of her life motivated the story ‘For the Love of Mariam’ in my book Waving in the Wind, a collection of true-life motivational stories.
The memory of Mariam prompts a revisit on breast cancer. The idea is to identify 10 true facts about breast cancer. These facts are based on several research findings amidst conflicting reports and controversies.
Breast Cancer Is Not A Death Sentence
There are no single or combined factors that can automatically inflict you with breast cancer. Though multiple factors place you at risk of developing the disease, some seem to increase your risk only marginally. These include smoking and excessive drinking. Others are early menstruating before age 12 and continuing after 50, and carrying first full-term pregnancy after age 30.
If you have some of these, the upsurge in risk can be significant. This having been said, an inherited risk factor doesn’t mean you are going to get breast cancer. However, there are very strong risk indicators in situations where there are abnormalities in breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Even at that 20% to 60% of women with these inherited abnormalities will not develop breast cancer. It is reassuring to know breast cancer recovery is one of the true facts about breast cancer.
Every Woman Is At Risk For Breast Cancer
Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Even some men! Notwithstanding that an inherited abnormality is the strongest risk factor, only about 10% of breast cancer are genetically related. Since about 85% of women who develop breast cancer don’t have a family history, it becomes crucial for all women to get screened as often as possible.
Breast Cancer Genes Can Be Inherited From Father Side of the Family
The reality of the true facts about breast cancer is that breast cancer genes can be inherited from your father’s side of the family. It is therefore important to find out from relatives’ cases on both sides. For instance, thousands of male breast cancer are diagnosed yearly. Surprisingly, male breast cancer is very closely linked to a BRCA2 abnormality. Therefore don’t delay to let your doctor know if you have a man in the family who has had breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Can Occur At Any Age
Breast cancer can occur at any age. My friend Mariam lost the battle against breast cancer at the age of 35. However, the risk of getting the disease grows with age. This is the reason why all women must be on alert. Experts recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Nonetheless, your doctor may suggest that you start earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer at a young age. For younger women, your doctor may recommend ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Bra or Antiperspirants Don’t Increase Breast Cancer Risk
The myth surrounding wearing a bra, and using antiperspirant as a risk factor trigger remains a myth. The unconfirmed report then was that wearing an underwire bra trapped toxins by restricting lymph and blood flow to the breasts.
There is also no proof for the claims that antiperspirants and deodorants cause cancer. First, they do not contain harmful chemicals that are ingested into the skin. Second, they do not restrict the body from sweating out cancerous stuff that builds up in the breasts.
Breast Cancer Is Not Related To Breast Size
Breast cancer is not breast-size related. Breast size is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether you wear the smallest A cup, the largest in a D, or even a G cup. Once you are a woman with breasts, you are not ruled out from getting breast cancer.
Hormone Therapy Does Not Increase Breast Cancer Risk
There was concern among several women when major research findings show that Hormone Therapy (HT), with a combination of estrogen and progestin, increased risks of invasive breast cancer marginally. Another study also showed similar results but with a reassurance that risks appeared to return to normal six months after women stopped using the therapy. This is regardless of whether the women used combined therapy for just a few months or for more than 5 years.
In addition, no risk increase for breast cancer in women using only estrogen therapy. However, this type of estrogen-only therapy is prescribed solely for women who have had their wombs removed surgically (hysterectomies). This is due to the fact that estrogen-only therapy can cause cancer in the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).
No Link Between High Fat Foods And Breast Cancer
Some studies found that women who live in countries with lower fat diets have a lower risk of breast cancer. Equally, women who live in countries with higher fat diets revealed no link between dietary fat consumption and breast cancer risk. Certainly, the two findings are contradictory.
The explanation for the contradiction is that women could have maintained lower risk for other reasons such as living a healthy lifestyle which them less vulnerable. One fact remains that a healthy weight is very important for postmenopausal women, as obesity is a risk factor that does put you at risk for breast and other cancers.
The studies are mixed on dairy products. A large-scale study found that premenopausal women who ate a lot of dairy products, especially low-fat and fat-free types, showed a lower risk of breast cancer. The study, however, found no link between dairy product consumption and breast cancer risk in women who are past menopause.
Mammograms Can’t Prevent Breast Cancer.
While mammograms can detect breast cancer, they cannot prevent it.
Mammograms Are Not A Waste Of Time
While some studies suggest a regular mammogram will not lower a woman’s risk of dying of breast cancer, many other studies totally disagree. The trick is to search for a radiology center that handles the highest number of breast cancer cases in your area. Select a radiologist whose special area is reading mammograms, and not forget to ask the number of mammograms he or she read yearly. According to another study, the more readings, say about 300 mammograms monthly, radiologists do, the more accurate they’ll be.
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