October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women in the United States. According to breastcancer.org, in 2019, it’s estimated that 30% of cancers diagnosed among women will be breast cancer. At Sunflower Home Health, we realize that raising awareness about breast cancer is key to helping those that are already diagnosed and those that might be diagnosed in the future.

For those of you who’ve never been personally touched by breast cancer, or even if you have but you aren’t fully educated on the matter. Here are 5 facts to know about breast cancer and 5 facts that should encourage you to educate yourself and others around you!

  1. Breast cancer is not just your grandmother’s disease. 1 in 8 women within the U.S are diagnosed with Breast Cancer. If you feel a lump or something abnormal don’t brush it off, go see your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Breast cancer is NOT just genetic. Did you know that 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no previous family history? Don’t be the person who says, “it’ll never happen to me”. In 2018 an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. So, it most certainly can happen to you. Take proper precautions and know your body.
  3. The lifestyle you lead matters. Leading a healthy lifestyle can not only reduce your risk of breast cancer but many other health diseases! Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and limiting your alcohol intake may not prevent breast cancer but it can aid in reducing your risk of diagnosis.
  4. Men can get breast cancer too. Most men tend to have this taboo outlook on breast cancer as a disease that only women are diagnosed with. Men have breast tissue just like women do. While, yes, the chances of men of being diagnosed with breast cancer are significantly lower than women, it is still a possibility.
  5. Being breast aware is important! Knowing how your breasts look and feel is something you should be very in tune with. You above anyone else are going to be the most familiar with your body. Being aware of your breasts means you’re more likely to catch changes or early symptoms such as:
    1. Change in size or shape in your breast
    2. Persistent pain in your armpit or breast area
    3. A lump or an area of thickened tissue
    4. Any redness or rash around the nipple area.

Screening

Even if you are checking yourself for cancer, it can often go unnoticed or not show any signs/symptoms at all. It’s important that you are being screened regularly. When caught early, patients can have up to a 98% survival rate. Early detection can and does save lives. We’ve outlined some of your screening options below:

  • Mammogram – this is the most common and well-known type of breast cancer screening. It’s an x-ray of the breast, which can help find small tumors that might otherwise be difficult to feel.
  • Breast exam – While it’s good to practice self-exams, it’s also important to have clinical breast exams performed as well.
  • Ultrasound/MRI – For those who are at higher risk of breast cancer, an ultrasound or MRI is often done as these are more likely to find non-cancerous breast masses.

Questions for Your Doctor

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be completely overwhelming and you may not know where to start. First, you need to start with which questions you should be asking your doctor. No question is a dumb question, they are all important and you should ask every single question you might have until you feel comfortable understanding the facts. Many don’t know where to start, so we’ve compiled a list of questions that you can ask below:

  • What type of breast cancer do I have?
  • What is the size of my tumor?
  • What is the grade and stage of this disease? What does this mean?
  • What is HER2 status? What does this mean
  • Do I need more tests to find out if there is cancer anywhere else in my body?
  • Do I need other treatment, like chemo or hormonal therapy?
  • What are my options for treatment?
  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
  • What can I do to get ready for treatment?
  • How will the chosen treatment affect my daily life?
  • Should I make any lifestyle changes?
  • Do you recommend any changes to my diet or nutritional supplements?

We recommend writing all of these questions down before you meet with your Oncologist so you don’t forget anything. Also, feel free to bring along your own questions and concerns. Your Oncology team is there to help you and will be there to answer any questions you might have.

What to Expect During Treatment

It’s also important that you understand what to expect during treatment as this can leave you feeling worried and unprepared. There is a lot to know when it comes to receiving treatment, including radiation treatment and often times you may not know what to expect. That’s normal, and we have a compiled a list for you.

Before Treatment

Typically, your first radiation session is a simulation. Meaning your doctors will use imaging scans to identify the exact location of the tumor before giving any radiation therapy. During your first session, the doctors will also make a small mark on your skin to help them pinpoint the radiation beam to the exact treatment site. It’s also not uncommon to be placed in an immobilization device. This helps ensure that you do not move during the treatment sessions.

External-Beam Radiation Therapy

According to cancer.net, external-beam radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine outside of the body. These sessions are quick and painless and only last about 15 minutes in total. This type of radiation therapy typically requires patients to have treatment sessions 5 times per week for 3-9 weeks.

Internal Radiation Therapy

This type of radiation therapy includes both temporary and permanent placement of radioactive sources in the tumor site. With this type of radiation, you will have various treatments throughout the weeks. And often times can be required to stay at the hospital for a brief period of time, as anesthesia is required for this treatment.

While internal radiation therapy often doesn’t cause any discomfort or pain. Some patients do report that they have experienced weakness or nausea from the anesthesia.

After Treatment

Once your treatment session comes to an end, be sure to schedule any follow-up appointments with your oncologist. This ensures they can check in on your recovery progress and address any side-effects you might have experienced.

As your body heals, remember that practicing self-care is extremely important to your healing process. If you feel tired, rest. If you feel like celebrating, do that too. Listening to your body and giving yourself exactly what you need can help bring a sense of peace and healing to your journey.

Life After Cancer

Once you’ve received treatment and beat cancer, it can be difficult to learn how to lead a post-cancer life. The first step is taking control of your health! We’ve rounded up 5 ways to stay health after cancer:

  • Stay active by exercising regularly – It is recommended that survivors get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week.
  • Keep your Vitamin D levels in check – Did you know that scientific studies have linked Vitamin D deficiency with breast cancer? Studies have shown women who are Vitamin D deficient have a 222% increased risk for developing breast cancer. In order to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, make it a point to eat food that are rich in vitamin D and be sure to take Vitamin D supplements daily.
  • Eat and drink mindfully – It can be hard to know what diet to follow post cancer. What can you eat? What do you avoid? There are literally a thousand “miracle diets” on the internet and people trying to get you to buy something you can easily learn yourself for free. It’s quite simple, eating healthy is the same for cancer survivors as it is for everyone else. A healthy and balanced diet can help keep your weight in check and give your body the nutrients it needs. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and lean meats. Keep red meat and alcohol to a bare minimum. It’s also important to cut back on bad fats like butter, fried and processed foods, fatty meats, and high fat dairy foods. Try choosing healthy fats more often like avocado or olive oil, nuts, avocado, salmon, almond butter.
  • Keep your stress levels low – It’s completely normal to feel anxious, depressed, or worried that your cancer will return. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health That’s why stress reduction should be a regular part of your routine. Try activities such as yoga, meditation, journaling, or exercising. Those are just a few examples. Stress reduction can be anything that you enjoy doing!

Sunflower Home Health is here to help if you have any questions about breast cancer. Please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form on our website and reach out or give us a call at your local office.  Those numbers are listed below:

  • Charleston – (662) 647-0653
  • Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
  • Cleveland – (662)756-4676
  • Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
  • Grenada – (662) 294-0726
  • Indianola – (662) 887-1518

At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.

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