Breast Cancer Awareness and Words from a Cancer Survivor
By Veronica Renaker
According to the CDC breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, and additionally, one in a thousand men will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
What is breast cancer?
“Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.”
Things you may not have known about breast cancer:
Though the exact cause of breast cancer remains unclear, there have been many studies that have shown that women who eat red meat are more at risk for developing breast cancer later in life.
A Harvard study reference: “We found that women who ate the most red meat in adolescence or early adulthood had an increased risk of developing breast cancer later in life. One serving a day increment in red meat intake during adolescence was associated with a 22% higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer and each serving per day increment during early adulthood was associated with a 13% higher risk of breast cancer overall. Those who ate more poultry during the same period had a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Of course, red meat is not the only risk factor for breast cancer. And this is an observational study, so we could not say that eating red meat was the only reason these women got cancer. But our analysis took into account most of the known breast cancer risk factors, and we adjusted for smoking, alcohol intake, age, hormone therapy, and oral contraceptive use. Still, red meat was one of the important breast cancer risk factors.”
Other studies have also linked breast cancer with alcohol consumption according to Cancer.org.
“Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who have one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk.”
When picking your methods of birth control you may want to take into account the amount of hormones used in said contraception. “Women have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer while they’re taking birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin and during the 10 years after they stop taking the pills. Progestin-only pills also increased risk, but not as much Aug 5, 2014 Breastcancer.org.”
The CDC’s fast facts:
Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.
Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women.
About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.
Breast cancer symptoms:
Often many do not have any symptoms at all. However, if you notice a change of the shape of your breast or any abnormal lumps or bumps that have developed over time, pain, or discharge from the nipple- See your doctor as soon as possible!
The Story of the Survivor (My Mom)
How do you keep the fear of it coming back under control?
Jean Renaker: “First and foremost, my Christian belief helps a great deal. I also take a lot of comfort from the fact that I take every precaution to be responsible with my health. I don’t drink or smoke- I exercise. I am careful with my red meat intake, and I stay informed. Other than that I don’t waste time worrying about something that I cannot control.”
How long ago were you diagnosed?
Jean Renaker: “Almost 14 years ago. I had been scratched by a rabbit and thought that that was the source of my discomfort. -As did my physician and all the rest of my health care providers because I was young, very healthy, and had no family history of any kind of cancer. I was wrong and so were they.”
What was the hardest part about hearing that diagnosis?
Jean Renaker: “Hearing the diagnosis wasn’t really the hard part, you’re just in shock. The hardest part for me was having very young children that I might not get to see grow up.”
How often do you think about cancer in your daily life?
Jean Renaker: “I think about it as it pertains to other people and their risk. I don’t think about it in personal terms any more, and I have not for a long time. It’s an illness I had. It’s not my identity. The exception to this would be having you tested to see if you have the BRCA1 gene.”
What was your support system?
Jean Renaker: “I read a crazy statistic somewhere that said that 70 percent of husbands leave their wives when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t know if that’s true. I hope that it’s not. It makes me very sad. I was very blessed that your dad was a great source of strength and my oncologist Rabi Patel (Founding Physician of CBCC).”
How were you treated?
“I had a radical mastectomy. My lymph nodes were clear of cancer and my margins were clean- so I optioned not to do chemotherapy because I had two young children and I did not want to compromise my immune system and be laid out flat for six months unless there was still cancer in my body.”
Anything you’d like to add?
“It’s always hard. But it’s not always negative. By that I mean that the sky is bluer for me than it is for many other people. Stupid things don’t seem so earth shattering. To be honest with you, most days I forget that I ever overcame cancer. I’m glad I did.”