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Breast Cancer And Dense Breasts

It’s that time of the year again where you see pink ribbons cropping up everywhere, on blouses, shirts and even on cars. When you see that you know it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have not scheduled your mammogram yet, you should do that now. By the way, doctors recommend that women begin having mammograms at age 40 and continue up to age 75. Opinions are mixed as to the frequency of testing for older women, so if you are over 70 you should consult with your doctor.

The first time a friend told me she had dense breasts, I immediately thought it was another way of saying she had large breasts. However, she went on to tell me that because her mammogram showed she had dense breasts, it was difficult to detect whether she had cancerous lumps or not. I was concerned. What if she had cancer and it could not be detected? Fortunately, further screening revealed no sign of cancer.

So, what are dense breasts? According to the Mayo Clinic, “dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area on a mammogram,” which resembles cancerous tissue, making it more difficult to detect. All women have dense breast tissue, but if your mammogram shows you have dense breasts, it means you have more dense breast tissue than fatty tissue. Women with non-dense breasts, on the other hand, have more fatty tissue than dense tissue. The Mayo Clinic report says that half of women undergoing mammograms have dense breasts.

My friend who was told she had dense breasts is also large-breasted, but dense breasts are not necessarily large. In fact, large breasts contain more fatty tissue or are less dense than smaller breasts. Also, the younger you are and the less you weigh, the greater your chances of having dense breasts. This is one occasion where your heavier sisters may be better off. However, regardless of size and density of your breasts, exercise can help shed chest fat and strengthen the muscles to reduce their size. Women who use hormone replacement therapy are also likely to have dense breasts.

Breast cancer is something we all want to avoid, this is why the National Breast Cancer Foundation carries out this annual campaign to remind us to take the necessary steps to help us avoid falling prey to this dreaded disease. Large breasts are not necessarily dense breasts. Women with less body mass are more likely to have dense breasts, which make it harder to detect cancer. If cancer runs in your family, you are even at a greater risk. Schedule your annual check-up now if you haven’t done so already.

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How To Live After Breast Cancer

Your treatments are over and you are feeling a great sense of relief, as you should. You made it. Give yourself a high-five, but it’s not yet time to relax. You want to feel well and at the same time try to avoid that cancer returning. Some of the same guidelines you followed before your diagnosis still apply.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Keep all of your follow-up appointments. Now is not the time to slack off. It’s important to stay close to your doctors so they can monitor you and you can tell them about any concerns you may have. They may also want to order some tests.

2. Eat right. Proper nutrition will not only help to prevent your cancer returning, but it will prevent obesity which leads to heart disease and other conditions.

3. Exercise. Increasing your physical activity will help you reduce body fat and boost your energy level.

4. Quit smoking. This can’t be stressed enough. Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States. If you need help kicking this habit, speak to your doctor.

5. Stay connected. Keeping up with your groups will give you the encouragement and support you need. Also, it helps when you reach out to others and share your story with them.

6. Live one day at a time. During your treatment, you may have put certain activities you once enjoyed on hold. Now you are anxious to get back to a normal routine, but nothing feels normal any more. What do you do? Take it one day at a time. Enjoy your family, your friends. Let them know you love and appreciate them. Take time to smell the roses – literally – read a book, listen to music and be thankful. You are still here.

If you need help in getting your life back on track following cancer, or if you are simply trying to meet your healthcare goals, why not fill in the form below for a free coaching session?

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Taking This Vitamin Could Cut Your Risk For Breast Cancer

This is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and as promised, I’m giving you another post on this dreaded disease. If you are like most women who have had a cancer diagnosis, you probably look for ways and means to rid yourself of the disease in the most natural way. Taking herbs is a popular choice, but prevention is always better than cure, goes the cliché, therefore once you have been diagnosed, you can no longer prevent it. Right? Well, bear with me.

Should you take vitamins?

So, how about vitamins? Reports about the necessity of taking vitamins are usually mixed: some say you should, others say they are a waste of money. However, there is one vitamin that has received star ratings in recent studies because of its potential to eliminate your risk of getting breast (and other types of) cancer. It’s Vitamin D, found in cheese, fortified milk, fatty fish and sunshine has been found to be effective in preventing breast cancer. See this poston vitamins that I wrote recently.

How high should your level be?

“Generally speaking, research has shown that once you reach a minimum serum vitamin D level of 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), your risk for cancer diminishes by 67 percent, compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less… Several studies also show that higher vitamin D levels are protective against breast cancer specifically. Importantly, a 2005 study showed women with vitamin D levels above 60 ng/mL have an 83 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those below 20 ng/mL, and I cannot think of any other strategy that can offer that kind of risk reduction,” writes Dr. Joseph Mercola in his article Why A Vitamin D Test Is More Important Than A Mammogram.

Vit. D prevents other types of cancer

The focus of this post is breast cancer, however the National Institute of Healthstates, “The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, combined with the discovery of increased risks of certain types of cancer in those who are deficient, suggest that vitamin D deficiency may account for several thousand premature deaths from colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer annually. This discovery creates a new impetus for ensuring adequate Vitamin D intake in order to reduce the risk of cancer.”

Who might be at risk?

The National Institute of Health states that Vitamin D deficiency occurs in all races, and is particularly high among Black Americans. It seems the more pigmentation you have, the more likely you are to be Vitamin D deficient. It would appear that the same holds true for residents of the northern United States where they receive less ultraviolet B (UVB) from the sun during the cooler months. Using sunscreen, the NIH report states, may prevent skin cancer, but at the same time, it completely blocks photosynthesis of vitamin D, resulting in deficiency, unless it is taken orally.

Vitamin D after diagnosis

To return to my question above, once you have been diagnosed, you can no longer prevent it, right? Dr. Mercola states, “Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it, and evidence suggests adding vitamin D to the conventional treatment for cancer can boost the effectiveness of the treatment.” Why A Vitamin D Test Is More Important Than A Mammogram

So, in addition to getting your annual mammogram, the next time you do your blood work, ask your doctor about your Vitamin D level. If it’s under 40ng/dl, ask him to recommend a Vitamin D supplement.

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Coping With Breast Cancer

As I wrote in my last post, if you are a woman who has never been diagnosed with breast cancer, you most likely know someone who has. The illness is so widespread that The National Cancer Institute says that a woman in the United States has a 1 in 8 chance of getting it. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer found in women after skin cancer, but the good news is that more women – an average of 89.6% according to the Cancer institute – are surviving five years or more after being diagnosed. Two of my close friends are breast cancer survivors, and one of them has passed the five-year mark. A younger cousin passed away last year.

Here are some things the National Cancer Institute recommends you can do if you have been diagnosed with cancer:

Get support – Cancer not only affects how you feel physically, it also affects your emotional health. You may feel afraid, depressed, helpless and hopeless. Some people may not want to tell their loved ones they have cancer because they do not want to scare them. I understand this, but I think that when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s not a time to be alone. In the case of my cousin mentioned above, she withheld the news from her family for a long time. When she did tell them, she was near death.
You may live alone and not have any family members close by. There are many support groups all over the country that you can join. Being around people who are either going through the same thing as you, or have gone through it, can give you a feeling of belonging and hope. You can also learn coping strategies for dealing with your illness. One of my friends says she has benefited tremendously from those groups.

Beware of feelings of denial – If you’re diagnosed with cancer, you may ask yourself, “Could this really be happening to me?” You may even become angry, but do not allow denial to prevent you from starting treatment. Speak to your doctor or a counselor if feelings persist. The sooner you begin treatment the better your chances are of surviving. My cousin also waited a long time before starting treatment and that caused her cancer to metastasize throughout her body. Don’t let this happen to you.

Have a positive attitude. This will help you as well as those around you cope with the changes you are experiencing. As I wrote in my welcome post, I am a firm believer in God and look to Him for support and strength when I need it. Even if you are a believer, keeping a positive attitude and hoping for the best outcome can help you survive this disease. Scientists are actually studying the effect that a positive attitude has on healing.

Stay active – Try to keep up with your day-to-day activities as much as possible, but rest when you feel tired. Take a walk. Listen to music. Spend time with friends. If you have the time, start a hobby you’ve always wanted to take up. Pray, meditate, keep a journal, practice relaxation exercises. Regard each day as a blessing.

There is so much more I could say about coping with cancer, but I think I’ve said enough to give you a general idea of what you can do if you’re in this situation. If you know someone who is, please pass on this information to them. And if you’re finding it difficult to cope with stress or depression as a result of illness or any other situation, maybe I can help you. In the form below, just leave a short note about your major concern, and I will get back to you.

Also, I am still waiting to send those bangles I told you about in my last post. Just fill in the form below and say, “Send me my bangle.” Until next time, stay healthy.
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