Showing posts with label cancer research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer research. Show all posts

Monday, October 8, 2012

Think Pink Part II - Ways to Help and Get Help

pain in breast breast cysts

Women have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute. A number of different risk factors contribute to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society lists the following risk factors:
  • Gender - Women are at greater risk than men, although men can get breast cancer.
  • Age - Risk increases with age. 
  • Dense breast tissue - this type of tissue is at greater risk to develop cancer. Dense tissue also makes it more difficult to feel a lump or see one on a mammogram.
  • Family History - A history of breast cancer in a close blood relative, your mom, sister or daughter.
  • BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 Genes - Having these genes does not automatically mean you will get breast cancer and not having them does not mean you will never get it.
  • Some benign breast conditions - Fibrosis, cysts, some benign tumors.

Additional risk factors include lifestyle choices that we can control:
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Post-menopausal without having used menopause drugs
  • Being physically inactive throughout much of life

Living with Breast Cancer

Facing a cancer diagnosis is never easy, even if you have been diagnosed before. There are many questions and fears that race through your mind. Many women find that keeping a cancer journal is a helpful outlet to voice things you may not want to say out loud.

Telling your kids about your breast cancer diagnosis may be the most challenging thing you will have to do after you’ve been diagnosed. advises that it is best to be honest with your children rather than hiding your breast cancer from them.

Talking to Young Children as well as older children and teens can be challenging because each age group has a different awareness of the disease and each reacts differently to emotional stress. advises:

  • Be honest about your diagnosis and don't hide information.
  • Be prepared for their fears about their own health as well as anxiety about the future.
  • Scheduling family meetings where kids can talk about their fears about the changes they see happening.

A personalized story or storybook that you can share with your young child or children might be helpful. Telling friends and family, especially children, about a cancer diagnosis is difficult and scary. Beyond The Shock, a free online resource dedicated to helping women and their families deal with breast cancer, has information for dealing with all aspects of breast cancer.

Remember, you are not alone and other women have gone through each stage of breast cancer. There are breast cancer support groups where you can find advice for talking to family members. Caring Bridge is a free online resource that helps families deal with breast cancer. There are links to leave messages of hope for loved ones, a family support planner and many other links to get involved.

A breast cancer diagnosis does not automatically mean your cancer is incurable. Early diagnosis and a wide variety of treatment options are turning women into survivors every year. Don't be afraid to make plans to do the things you love. One of my friends was diagnosed with an aggressive form of inflammatory breast cancer over three years ago. She chose to change a lot of things in her life, such as diet and exercise, in an effort to counteract the affects of her treatment and to minimize the risk a recurrence. I admire her so much for her strength and sheer will, not only to survive but to thrive. We often laugh because, no matter how bad she felt during the week or how down she got, she made time to go out and enjoy hot wings and beer with her husband every Friday night! If laughter is truly the best medicine, she's living proof.

Cancer research
The Cleveland Leader, Breast Cancer Awareness Walk

Staying ahead of the Curve

Even if you have no personal or family history of breast cancer, stay on top of your annual mammograms and monthly self breast exams. If, during your self-breast exams, you notice a breast lump, pain in breast or breast area, or breast cysts, it is vital to call your doctor and schedule an appointment to get it checked out. More often than not, the lumps and bumps we may find may simply be a cyst in breast tissue that forms during your normal menstrual cycle, but it isn’t worth taking the chance to wait and see if it goes away on its own.

Unfortunately, money issues sometimes cause us to put our own health needs on hold. Insurance companies cover yearly mammograms for women age 40 and over, but if you are younger and you need a mammogram, or you are uninsured, you may be eligible for a free mammogram. Search for “free mammograms +” and your state’s abbreviation to find clinics and programs that provide mammograms free of charge or at very low cost. The National Breast Cancer Foundation also works to provide women with free mammograms, as well as support services.

One final thing to keep in mind as we do our part to reduce our risk of breast cancer. Take the time to eat healthy and include exercise in our daily routine. The National Breast Cancer Foundation shares the following healthy habits to reduce our risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Get regular screenings

Be sure to speak with your doctor if you think you have a family history or other risk factors to consider, as this might unveil additional practices for you to try in cancer prevention.

Stay tuned for our next article in the breast cancer miniseries, which will focus on pink ribbon products you can buy to support the fight for a cure!

Kathryn M. D'Imperio
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ovarian Cancer Month – A Time to Reflect

cancer cancer months
Teal Ribbon represents ovarian cancer awareness
Cancer is something that can touch anyone at any time in different ways. It can strike someone we know, a friend or family member, or even ourselves. September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It is the perfect time to reflect on our own health and wellness and the health of those we love.

Ovarian cancer diagnosis is difficult because it is often not found until the later stages of the disease. Symptoms can be mistaken for a mild irritation or pain that is not obvious enough to trigger a diagnosis or alert us to go to the doctor in the first place. Part of the problem may be that the symptoms are often common issues that many people have from time to time.

According to the nonprofit group, Teal Ribbon Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. (TROCRF), some common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

•    Feelings of bloating, discomfort or fullness after eating
•    Frequent or urgent need to urinate
•    Backaches
•    Constipation or diarrhea
•    Nausea
•    Shortness of breath

None of these symptoms really screams cancer.  So what should a woman do if she has one or more of them? It's important to talk to your doctor whenever you have unusual or uncomfortable symptoms. If you feel something is out of the ordinary, check with your doctor. Don’t second guess yourself and listen to your body.

Ovarian Cancer Statistics

A silent killer of women, ovarian cancer is one of the most aggressive of the gynecologic cancers. It can be especially devastating to women in their childbearing years that may not have started their families yet.  More than 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. Finding a cure for ovarian cancer and funding cancer research is more important now than ever before.

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance reports the following statistics on ovarian cancer:
  • Women have a 1 in 71 chance of developing invasive ovarian cancer in their lifetimes.
  • They have a 1 in 95 lifetime risk of dying from an invasive form of this disease.
  • About 15,500 women die from ovarian cancer each year.
Ovarian cancers grasp on the female reproductive system is staggering. “Approximately one out of every ten ovarian cancer cases is hereditary,” says the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. The statistics have some women even questioning whether they should have their ovaries removed to lower their risk of ovarian cancer. Some consider this life-changing surgery even if the disease just seems to run in the family. The treatment options are very personal for individuals facing this disease. Women should consult their doctors as well as doing their own research about the disease before making a decision.

A Personal View

My own life was touched by ovarian cancer when my friend developed ovarian cancer. It was no easy battle, but her spirit remained strong and she won her battle. Her enthusiasm and joyful personality warms the hearts of those around her. All of us who know her are so thankful that Sandie was blessed with a successful return to good health.

My friend, an author, and some of her fellow writers penned a set of devotionals that are sold so a portion of the proceeds can go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. This ovarian cancer society continually works to provide funding for research to successfully identify and treat ovarian cancer and to find a cure.

If someone you know is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it is important to show your support and to keep a positive attitude. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that ovarian cancer patients with a strong network of friends and acquaintances experience successful recoveries and longer lives.

Fighting Back

Showing your support to find a cure and to further research is both noble and admirable. If you don’t have a lot of money or time, don't worry. Anything you can do to help goes a long way.

Here are some ways to get involved this month:
  • Participate in an ovarian cancer walk. Find upcoming walks on the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s website.
  • Attend an benefit, such as a 5k race or a concert.
  • Make a donation to your desired ovarian cancer foundation to help fund ovarian cancer research.
  • Volunteer your time with a local ovarian cancer alliance or cancer fundraiser.
  • Display cancer ribbons for the cancers that have affected people you know. Proceeds from purchasing a cancer ribbon often benefit organizations.
Cancer awareness months are a great way to drive support for research and the quest for a cure. Show your support any way you can. If you know someone battling ovarian cancer let them know they are in your thoughts.

If you have other ideas or points you would like to share about ovarian cancer or ovarian cancer month, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer