By Debbie Kerr
As a child, you might have uttered, “It’s not fair.” For flair, you may have even stomped a foot or stuck out your tongue. There could have been tears from you… and your parents, depending on how long the tantrum lasted. As a teen, “It’s not fair” could have been accompanied by a door slam or colourful language. As an adult, “It’s not fair,” might be something you think rather than say; however, if the emotions are strong, like with a cancer diagnosis, you might yell, “It’s not fair.” You might even yell, “It’s not fair; there’s no family history.”
But do you really need a family history to get breast cancer? Not according to the American Cancer Society’s website that states, “It’s important to note that most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.” It is an important risk, but it's not the only risk.
If that’s the case, why did you get cancer? It’s hard to tell. According to The Society of Breast Imaging website, “Seventy-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no special identifiable risk factors: screening only women with risk factors will miss the vast majority of women who will develop breast cancer.”
Fortunately, there are some risk factors that are known. Some of them are beyond your control, but some of them you can control enough to minimize the risks.
Risks outside your control
The following conditions (in no particular order) increase your risk of developing breast cancer, but there is little to nothing that you can do to decrease these risks:
Risks you can minimize
While you can’t lower your breast cancer risks in some areas, here are a few actions you can take to help reduce your risk:
Know the signs - Even if you do everything you can to minimize your risk of developing breast cancer, it’s still possible for you to get it. If this happens, it’s critical that you know the early signs of breast cancer, so that your breast cancer can be detected early.
One step in awareness is knowing that, in addition to a lump, there are many other signs of breast cancer. The “Know Your Lemons” campaign is one example of an easy-to-understand approach to relaying information about breast cancer.
Get early and regular testing – Based on studies, age 40 is the best time to start having regular mammograms. My first mammogram was at age 49 when I noticed something unusual about my breast (not a lump). I was not scheduled to have my first mammogram until I was 50. During testing, I also discovered that I had dense breasts, so it took an ultrasound, biopsy, MRI, and an MRI biopsy to get a clear and complete picture of the type and extent of my cancer.
Remember, family history is only part of the story.
Understand your risks and, where you can, minimize your risks.
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Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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