October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Here are some facts: It has been estimated that in 2013, 23,800 women and 200 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada alone. It  is a complex disease with no known single cause and is diagnosed when there are cancerous growths or tumours found in the breast area. The disease can be inherited through genetics or develop on its own in both women and men. It’s scary to think of, but you can reduce your risk and protect yourself.

It is possible to reduce the risk of breast cancer through lifestyle choices. Living well by being a healthy body weight. eating a more balanced diet, excising regularly, quitting smoking and reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment are all factors that can help reduce the risk of getting Breast Cancer. Women that are over 50 should get a mammogram every two years, and women who are more at risk should go every year. Watch the informational video below from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for more info.

But you’re in your 20s and 30s and think you should get an examination. What are some other options? A clinical breast exam is an exam done by your doctor and is another effective way to detect breast cancer early. Finding breast cancer early greatly improves a woman’s chances for successful treatment. Some cancers can’t be found by a mammogram, but they may be found in a clinical breast exam so it’s best to get both or at least one while you are young.

Checking your own breasts for lumps or other changes is called a breast self-exam (BSE). If you choose to do BSE, remember that breast changes can occur because of pregnancy, aging, menopause, menstrual cycles, or from taking birth control pills or other hormones. It is normal for breasts to feel a little lumpy and uneven. Also, it is common for breasts to be swollen and tender right before or during a menstrual period. If you notice any unusual changes in your breasts, contact your doctor.

FACTS AND MYTHS (obtained by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation) 

Antiperspirants/Deodorant cause Breast Cancer – MYTH
THE FACTS: Several studies have been conducted on the link between antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer and to date there is no conclusive evidence that they increase your risk of breast cancer.

 Some deodorants contain aluminum. You may be advised not to wear deodorant containing aluminum when you go for a screening mammogram. This is because it could show up on the mammogram images and may lead to an inaccurate result by making breast cancers and other abnormalities harder to detect.
If you are concerned about the ingredients in your personal care products, follow the precautionary principle – use simpler products and read the label so you avoid anything with “parfum” or “fragrance.”
Men don’t get breast cancer – MYTH
THE FACTS: Men have breasts and can develop breast cancer. Their risk, however, is very low, with fewer than one per cent of all breast cancer cases in Canada occurring in men. Despite the small number of cases, breast cancer in men is not well understood, stigmatized, and may be mis-diagnosed or diagnosed at a later stage.
Men, like women, are encouraged to be breast aware and discuss any unusual changes in their breasts with a health care provider.
Cell phone use causes breast cancer – MYTH
THE FACTS: There is currently no conclusive link between cell phone use and the increased risk of breast cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2011 that radio-frequency fields, such as those from cell phones, may cause cancer but more research is needed before this is confirmed.
If you are concerned about cell phone use and the possible link to cancer: 
• Reduce the amount of time you use a cell phone or consider texting instead of talking
• Use a headset instead of holding the phone next to your ear
• Don’t carry your cell phone next to your skin (e.g. in your bra)
Radiation by mammography causes breast cancer – MYTH
THE FACTS: Modern mammography equipment requires very small doses of radiation. Research confirms that the risk of harm from radiation exposure by mammography is very low. Radiation would need to be delivered to the breast tissue at 100-1000 times higher than used for mammography in order to have a statistical increase in breast cancer risk.
The benefits of the earlier diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer far outweigh the risk of the small dose of radiation received during a mammogram.
Click HERE for a list mammography clinics in the Ottawa region.

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