Breast Cancer impacts roughly 1 in 8 women in the United States each year, and less than 1% of the male population will develop breast cancer.
This is an unfortunate statistic, more so for women, and many people feel as though breast cancer may be inevitable for them, especially if it runs in their family. Having said that, there are a few factors that can impact an individual’s likelihood that he or she will develop breast cancer in their life, such as their genetics, race, age and gender. Although those factors are unpreventable, there are some steps that individuals can take to lower their risk of developing breast cancer.
What Factors are Out of Your Control?
Unfortunately, there are certain factors that cannot be prevented and are out of the individuals control when it comes to how these things impact one’s health. These things include a person’s age, their gender, their race and the genetic makeup that they naturally have. These factors are things that human beings are born with and things that unfortunately cannot be changed or altered to its core. For example, according to Susan G. Komen, breast cancer deaths equal to about 41,760 in women, whereas deaths in men with breast cancer total around 500. It is an unfortunate fact that, although men are able to develop breast cancer, women are much more prone to getting it during their lifetime. Additionally, research has shown that White and African-American individuals are more likely to develop breast cancer, whereas Hispanic and American Indian individuals are not. When you combine multiple genetic factors, such as DNA or gender, with race and ethnicity, individuals may start to experience a higher likelihood that he or she will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Despite the factors that individuals do not have control over, there are some things that individuals can take into their own hands to ensure that they have the best shot of not getting breast cancer during their lifetime. Of course, these are conscious factors that will need to be altered and/or changed by the individual themselves, requiring a little more effort on their end, but the pay off is great in the end.
What You Can Control
As previously mentioned, there are several factors that individuals can take into their own hands, ultimately controlling their own destiny and health. The things that people can control includes:
- Controlling their diet and ensuring that they have a well-balanced diet that lends itself well to a healthy body weight. It is important to note that a healthy diet may look differently for different people, depending on their genetics and how their body processes certain foods. For example, for one individual he or she may need to focus on having a lower carb diet, whereas another may not have the same challenges towards carbs. A general rule of thumb is to have a balanced diet of proteins, carbs and healthy fats, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is suggested to seek out help from a dietitian or a doctor to gain a better understanding of what a balanced diet looks like based on individual needs.
- Getting an appropriate amount of exercise is another way to ensure that individuals are healthy and giving their bodies the best chance of staying cancer free. Similar to diet, exercise routines will vary from person to person, based on their general abilities and capabilities. Each individual should aim for roughly 20-30 minutes of exercise each day at minimum. Exercise regimens include, but are not limited to walking, running, yoga, Pilates, biking, swimming, etc. Before participating in rigorous exercise, an individual should be cleared by a doctor to be able to partake in exercise. Individuals who are unfamiliar with exercise should also consult with their doctor or a physical therapist regarding which type of exercise is right for them.
- Doctors and health care professionals will always suggest that individuals avoid using tobacco products and alcohol in excess, as it can compromise an otherwise healthy body over time. Avoiding the excess use of tobacco products, whether its cigarettes or otherwise, as well as different types of alcohol can simply give the body the ability to stay healthy and for all of the organs inside the body to run smoothly and do their jobs, giving bodies a chance to fight off any illnesses and hopefully avoid cancers.
It is important to note that doing these things will not guarantee you to be cancer free and avoid breast cancer as a whole. These factors are simply things that individuals can take into their own hands to ensure that they are living the healthiest life that they possibly can, by controlling things that they can. Of course, there are other measures that can be taken to prevent breast cancer, with the help of medical professionals that will take all factors into account, preventable or unpreventable.
If an individual feel like he or she needs to seek out medical advice, they should first meet with their doctor to go over their family history and their environmental or lifestyle factors that can impact their overall risk. When meeting with a doctor, it is important that the individual is open and honest about their concerns and the risk factors that he or she experiences that can increase their risk of breast cancer. After receiving a full consultation with a medical professional, individuals may have several different options depending on the opinion of the doctor that they are seeing. Options may include BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic testing that can gauge how likely it is for an individual to develop breast cancer in their lifetime based on their genetic makeup. After determining if the individual does or does not have the gene, he or she may seek out additional resources and options from there. Such options include:
- Risk-lowering drugs, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, can reduce the risk of women getting breast cancer. These two drugs are the only FDA approved medications and are solely used for women that are at a much higher risk for getting breast cancer than the typical female in society. It is important to note that each of these drugs have side effects and may have to be closely monitored by a medical professional over time to ensure the patient is responding well to the medication.
- Preventive surgery, commonly referred to as a mastectomy, is seen as perhaps one of the most drastic yet effective preventive measure that an individual can do. During a mastectomy, a woman’s breasts are removed, along with the tissue in the breasts, which can greatly decrease the risk that they will develop breast cancer. However, it is important to note that mastectomies may not be able to remove all of the breast tissue, which can leave a slight risk that an individual can still develop breast cancer. There are also complications that may come along with a mastectomy, such as infection of the wounds or women feeling as though they are less feminine without their breasts. It is important to note that reconstruction surgeries are available to some women who feel as though they would like implants in order to feel like themselves again.
Making these decisions regarding an individual’s health and their bodies can be challenging and overwhelming, leaving them susceptible to feeling as though they do not have many resources available to them during these challenging times. However, there are resources available to people that may need it, especially when they are undergoing surgery or treatment. In-home caregivers can help individuals during their pre-surgery routine, just hours before their surgery, as well as the hours post-surgery and during their recovery period. There are several services that in-home caregivers can provide to those who are undergoing breast cancer surgeries or treatments such as:
- Transportation assistance can help individuals get to and from their doctors’ appointments safely and without worry of who will be picking them up after their surgery. By utilizing a caregiver for transportation purposes, an individual will take the uncertainty out of ride sharing programs, as well as the awkwardness of asking others to take care of them.
- Personal care services are available to those who may need assistance with bathing, going to the bathroom, getting dressed and overall personal hygiene. This is incredibly important in the days post-surgery, as it may be difficult for the individual to get around their home, making using the restroom or getting dressed increasingly more difficult.
- Light housekeeping services may allow the individual that is recovering form their surgery to feel as though they are living in a tidy and clutter-free home, without having to clean it themselves! Caregivers can maintain the cleanliness of the home and maintain an overall happy and healthy environment for the patient to relax and recover in.
- Meal preparation is one of the most important aspects of services that an in-home caregiver can provide, especially after a surgery. It is incredibly important that patients take care of themselves post-surgery, including their nutrition! Caregivers can prepare meals that are delicious, nutritious and meet the guidelines of a meal plan set by a nutritionist or a doctor. Caregivers can also go grocery shopping on behalf of their client to ensure that the proper foods are in their home for when they are hungry!
- After a woman gets a mastectomy, she may or may not have medication that she has to take in order to heal properly after her surgery. During recovery, it is imperative to a have an individual managing medication and ensuring that the patient receives the proper amount of medication, at the proper time. A caregiver can provide medication reminders that will ensure the medication is taken properly and the prescribed prescription care plan is adhered to.
All of the previously aforementioned services are wonderful ways for ensure that a woman recovers from her surgery, or an individual recover during treatment. Of course, during this chaotic and stressful time, the person may simply need someone to be there for them. If their loved ones are not local and cannot be around them, or simply have schedules that cannot allow them to be there, a caregiver could possibly help. Companionship services are incredibly important, and they ensure that the patient is looked after and that they have someone there for them. Caregivers can play games with their clients, plan social visits for them, take them to fun outings and simply be there for them to talk to.
We know that breast cancer is scary, and it may not be completely preventable, but we highly encourage everyone to take matters into their own hands if they are able to do so. We encourage all individuals to seek out the resources available to you to fight breast cancer and be a warrior.