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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted Sep 14 2008 5:25pm

I was at the doctor last week for a check-up and I saw National Breast Cancer Awareness Month materials prominently displayed. A few years ago, two of my closest friends and one of my graduate school professors were all diagnosed with breast cancer within a couple of weeks of one another. Thanks to early detection, my two friends were able to receive treatment and are living healthy, active lives today. My professor, however, discovered her cancer too late.

Having witnessed this, and seeing what a difficult time it was for them, and the people closest to them, made me wonder what we can all do to help to prevent cancer in the first place, and what best allows women to detect breast cancer early on.

Mammography is the most effective method for early detection of breast cancer. Up until recently, breast self-examination (BSE) was recommended for all women over age 20. However, in recent years, research has shown that BSE doe not necessarily result in a greater detection and survival rate. Part of the problem could be that women don't perform BSE consistently or correctly. An October 7th article in the Arizona Republic discusses some newly available breast self-examination kits designed to make BSE easier. The article also cites various expert opinions on the benefits of these kits along with self-examination in general.

While early detection is extremely important, preventative health practices are equally important, so I wanted to pass a long a couple of good resources. I am a fan of the American Institute for Cancer Research whose mission is to foster research on diet and cancer prevention. Their website contains tons of information on foods that help lower your risk of cancer and foster overall health, along with recipes that include those foods. While the National Institutes of Health feel that there is no conclusive evidence that eating certain foods will lower your risk of cancer, they have seen that a diet rich in beta-carotenes can help reduce your risk. Their website lists factors that can increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer. Also, this month The American Cancer Society published an article entitled, "Lifestyle vs. Breast Cancer: The Role of Food, Fitness, and Weight in Your Risk of Breast Cancer," which has some good advice on things you can do to lower your risk.

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