Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

3 years ago my mom was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. My mom's diagnosis was my first personal encounter with cancer; I had no idea how difficult it would be to watch someone you love go through treatment.

I was training to be a nurse practitioner at the time and utilized Georgetown's resources to do a deep dive into the research behind breast cancer screening and prevention. 

Since many of you have boobs or love someone who has boobs, I compiled key points from my training as a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and added a few extra tidbits I found while researching on behalf of my mom. I hope this information is helpful and encouraging!


Breast Cancer Statistics

1 in 8 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in her life.
That’s an alarmingly high number!
And although it is accurate, it’s often misunderstood.

1 in 8 refers to the risk of developing cancer if you were to live until 90.
Your breast cancer risk by at age 30 is different from that of a 90-year-old.

1 in 227 women will develop breast cancer by age 30

1 in 42 by age 50

1 in 26 by age 70

1 in 8 by age 90


Hereditary components (ie family history or history of BRCA gene) only account for 10% of breast cancer. 

What does this mean?


There are MANY modifiable risk factors for the prevention of breast cancer. Individual information on risk could be useful in making more informed decisions on breast cancer prevention.


Mammography?

Mammography is a 10 billion a year industry that doesn't actually change outcomes for most women. 

You have to screen 1900 women for 10 years to change the outcome for one woman! 

Some European countries changed their guidelines on mammography use because of how little impact mammography has on outcomes.
 
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says that the net benefit of screening with mammography is small in women over 40, and they recommend that women 50 to 74 have mammograms every two years. The task force is made up of independent scientists who assess the value of screening, are not allowed to make financial arrangements with providers, and do not consider cost impact in their analysis. 

In Canada, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Healthcare has similar recommendations to the USPSTF– but they were actually more aggressive in attempting to scale back the overuse of breast cancer screening.


Thermography?

Another option to consider for early breast cancer screening is thermography.

Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI), a type of thermography used in the screening of breast cancer, uses an infrared thermal camera to take a picture of the areas of different temperature in the breasts. The camera displays these patterns as a sort of heat map.

Thermography uses heat to scan the body looking for changes in blood flow, one of the earliest signs of tumor growth. It can also look for inflammatory breast cancer. 


Or Both!

Mammography looks at the structure of the breast, while thermography looks at physiology. If you use one or the other it's 85% accurate. If you use both you get 95% accuracy, which offers more prevention by allowing you time to implement lifestyle changes. 


Breast Cancer Prevention:
The only cure is prevention

  • Diet:

    • Whole Foods

    • Plant-based

    • Increase fiber (this reduces relative risk by 54%!)

    • Fat at 20%

    • No more than one alcoholic drink per day

  • Lifestyle:

    • Moderate exercise 

    • No smoking

    • Weight management

    • Stress management

    • Adequate sleep

    • Breastfeed for at least 6 months

    • Shift work puts you at higher risk

    • Limit screen time before bed as blue light elevates cortisol levels

    • Be thoughtful about what you put on your skin. Anything you put on your skin is 10x more potent and goes directly into the bloodstream and then into tissue 

  • Supplements:

    • DIM (a hormone regulating supplement)

    • Vit D

    • Iodine 

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