Today, at 30 years old, I am going in for my first mammogram. Fear not, this is an elective procedure to get a baseline reading of my breast tissue. I approached my ObGyn last month about wanting to get the BRCA test, but she ultimately determined that this was the best route for me instead. As I've said in the past, my mother was my best friend and I miss her every second of every day...especially now that Wake is here. I don't ever want Wake, or my future children, to go through what my brother and I experienced with mom. I don't want them to watch me suffer in every way for 8 years and then wither away like a lily in the winter. I want to know that I did everything in my power to fight (if it ever gets to that point). After all, Wake is the reason I get to blog about "Pampers & Pearls" in the first place ;-).
So, I am taking a proactive stance with my health, but I am still extremely apprehensive. I'm overwhelmed by the many emotions attached to this decision; I am proud of myself for doing this and I feel brave, but I'm also petrified about all the "what-ifs." I went with my mother one time while she got a mammogram (this was during her remission before the cancer metastasized). Yes, the actual exam looked very awkward and uncomfortable but what bothered me the most was the anxiety she experienced afterwards while waiting for the results. I can still see her face experience that "what-if", and it's overwhelming to me right now.
I'd like to share my journey with you. For todays Five on Friday Link-up with Darci, April, Natasha, and Christina I've listed the reasons how we (including me) can and should take a proactive stance with our breast health.
Monthly breast self - exams. "Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical center states, 'Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self - exam is very important.' While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your health care professional if there are any changes." Go to this link here for instructions on how to do a self check. Also, a local TV station here in Jacksonville does something called "Buddy Check 12." On the 12th of every month you and your "buddy" call, text, or email each other to check and make sure you did your exam for that month. It's a great way to support a friend in their breast health journey. Sooooo, being inspired by that, I've decided to set up a "Buddy Breast Check" link-up!! Every 12th of the month I will write a post reminding people to do a self-exam. The directions for the link-up will be included, but it's very simple; once you do your monthly self - check, write a quick post affirming you rubbed on your boobies, add the "Buddy Breast Check" button, and add your info to the link-up at the end of my post. This will hopefully not only be a great way to link-up with other bloggers who care, but a great reminder to our readers to do their self-exams too! It's an easy/active step in your breast health!
Yearly Pap test. There are discrepancies out there about when women should start getting pap tests, and how often they should get them. This of course should and will be determined by your doctor. I had my first when I was 18, but women at the VERY least should have one by the time they're 21. I also personally get one every year, but some doctors may recommend every other year. Regardless, receiving a pap test is important because it not only screens for cervical cancer & HPV (which can lead to cervical cancer) BUT your ObGyn will also do a breast exam. You know the old saying, "two eyes are better than one?" Well in my opinion, two hands are better than one as well! Also your ObGyn will most likely be the doctor who will help you determine your breast health schedule (i.e. yearly mammograms) and refer you to a breast clinic or oncologist.
Yearly Mammograms. Most women begin getting mammograms between the age of 35 and 40, depending on your family history. This is the age recommended by your doctor and also when most insurance companies will begin covering the exam. However, what I found out through this process of mine, is if your lifetime chance of getting breast cancer is higher than 20%, your insurance company should cover a mammogram and potentially a chest MRI before the age of 35. How do you determine your risk? Well, other than getting the BRCA tests (which only tests for the two breast cancer genes) your doctor can do what is called an IBIS Risk evaluator. It is an interactive tool developed by scientists to determine your breast cancer risk based on your family history. This is what my doctor decided to do for me (instead of the BRCA test) and my lifetime risk is 34.5%. This is the reason I am ultimately beginning my breast health journey today, and why (Thank God) it will be completely covered by my insurance.
Take care of your body! Studies show that some of the best ways to be proactive against cancer is to breast feed your babies (if possible), consume less alcohol, exercise, maintain a normal body weight, eat more fiber, eat more fruits & veggies, eat more salmon, don't smoke, clean "greener", and Relax!! Wow, that can be a lot of changes to your lifestyle, but it's somewhat of a no-brainer too. Think about it..."studies show that women who breastfeed may have a slightly lower risk of breast cancer because breastfeeding interrupts ovulation and this lowers estrogen output. Breastfeeding may also help breast cells become fully mature and thus less prone to mutations that can turn cancerous. Alcohol reduces the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen... Exercise helps stimulate the immune system and fight free radicals that corrode cells in the body. Piling on the pounds, especially around the waistline, is associated with increased breast cancer risk. One study showed that women in their 50′s who have gained more than 20 pounds had twice the risk of breast cancer. Body fat may convert adrenal hormones to estrogen after menopause. Losing weight before menopause, however, lowers that risk. A diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables supplies both soluble and insoluble fiber (the type that doesn’t dissolve in the body) which binds to estrogen and escorts it out of the body. Fiber may also enhance bacteria that metabolize estrogen. Wheat bran also contains phytic acid and lignans shown to block the growth of mammary cancer in the lab studies. A bowl of cereal will provide one quarter of your quota. Salmon, mackerel and other cold water fish contain Omega-3s, the same fatty acids that reduce blood fats and protect against heart disease may also protect against breast tumors... Most cleaning products on the market are laced with harmful industrial ingredients you won’t find listed on the label. In the study, breast cancer was twice as prevalent in women who used the highest amounts of cleaning products; those who used air fresheners and mold and mildew products (especially the ones containing bleach) faced the highest risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer... And Relax!- It’s well documented that stress can cause all kinds of health problems..." (Dichter)
Now, I admit that I don't do everything listed above (I like my glass of wine or two, thank you very much) but if we try to make better choices when given the option, it might just help. For example, I try and stay away from Soy because it has estrogen in it, and my mother's cancer (and most breast cancers) was estrogen based.
Get involved; there are so many things you can do outside of "health care"! The Susan G. Komen foundation does a Race for the Cure as well as the 3 day walk in a city nearby. The American Cancer Society has a "Making Strides" walk in most cities. And The Donna Foundation here in Jacksonville has a ton of events; Hope Squared, The National Breast Cancer Marathon, A Night in Candyland, Donna Bike, The Players 5K, etc... There is no reason why you can't get out there and support the cause; or any cause for that matter. This month in fact, my husband is growing out his beard for MOvember; a month-long event involving the growing of facial hair during the month of November to raise awareness of Men's health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers.
What ever your cause may be, show passion! Your body is your temple! You are worth it and your children, spouse, parents, siblings and friends will thank you!
Thanks for stopping by today! I'll let you know on Monday how the mammogram went AND be on the lookout for "Buddy Breast Check" on the 12th of every month!
Labels: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Five on Friday, lifestyle