Heart to Heart Breast Talk

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Kerry Gilmartin

This post was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Bamboobies.

As breastfeeding supporters when it comes to talking about breast cancer it is easy for us to get caught up in talking about how breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It’s true that statistically speaking breastfeeding can lower your chance of breast cancer, but it isn’t a be all- end all type of prevention, just one piece. The reality is that breastfeeding your baby (or babies) doesn’t mean you get to dismiss the possibility of breast cancer forever, there is still a risk. The good news is that breastfeeding along with other measures can help reduce your risk and education and support can better support those that do develop breast cancer.

Related post: Reduced Risk Doesn’t Mean No Risk

My paternal grandmother is a survivor of breast cancer. A kind, giving woman with a gentle soul, early detection and aggressive treatment meant she lost her breasts but kept her life. I’m so grateful for the treatments available to fight this threatening disease, without them I wouldn’t have known my grandmother. I will never forget when I was young and she showed me her double mastectomy scars and told me her story. The impact of her experience taught me a lot but it was her gentle warning to take care of myself and to regularly check my own breasts that has continued to ring in my ears. Like my grandmother, I want to be here for my children for a long time still, I’m not about to bank on one risk reducing factor. Instead, I want to be informed and do everything I can to protect my health.

So, aside from breastfeeding, what else can you do to lower your risk of breast cancer? And how can you raise your chances of surviving should you develop breast cancer? We’ve pulled together some simple, accessible tips to get you started. Awareness alone won’t change anything, education and action steps are required to make a difference.

 breastfeeding reduces but doesn't eliminate breast cancer risk

Keep A BreastBamboobies donates a portion of all online sales to the Keep A Breast Foundation to support their efforts in promoting awareness, self-checking and prevention of breast cancer.

 

Know the facts

Breast cancer is an extremely prevalent disease and it is crucial to know the facts, learn about prevention, and perform monthly exams.

  • Besides skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among American women. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 cases of cancers.
  • Today, about 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths among American women.
  • The chance that a breast cancer patient will be alive five years after diagnosis is lower in women under 40. Statistics indicate that tumors diagnosed in younger women may be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment, making early detection key.

Aging, genetics, race, breast tissue, and menstrual periods are all factors that cannot be changed, however, leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding common toxins that are linked to cancer, and making smart diet choices are all ways in which you can decrease your risk for breast cancer.

Being aware of what you put in as well as on your body are preventative tactics that you are in control of. Knowledge is key, read the labels of the products you buy and when possible avoid products containing, PARABENS, PHTHALATES, 1,4-DIOXANE, NITROSAMINES, HEAVY METALS. Also, make conscious decisions about cleaning supplies you use in your home. Avoid bleach and stick to these alternatives lemon, baking soda and vinegar when cleaning. Lastly, avoid plastic whenever possible as it can slowly leak chemicals into whatever it touches i.e plastic food storage containers, and plastic water bottles.

In young people, obesity and toxicity are the most prevalent reasons for excess estrogen making it crucial to maintain a healthy body weight. Make healthy choices when choosing the food you put into your body and learn about the fruits and vegetables that are part of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists. Avoiding pesticides and choosing certified organic produce, when possible, will reduce the likelihood that you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and hormones.

Getting Started

Early detection is KEY making it extremely important to perform monthly exams, know your body and your breast. Becoming familiar with your breast will help you determine what is “normal” for your body. You can check yourself in 5 easy steps, beginning with a visual exam. When performing your exam, ask yourself these questions …

  • Do my breasts look the same?
  • Are my nipples the same shape?
  • Are there any indentions, bruises or bulges?
  • Is there any discharge coming from my nipples? Are the veins more noticeable on one breast than the other?

It is necessary to note that if you notice any changes you should visit your doctor right away.

*Keep in mind that lactating breasts are usually more dense and prone to lumps from milk than an empty breast. Breast self-exams are still beneficial, try to do them when your breasts are empty.

Check Yourself AppFor more information on how to perform your exam visit Keep a Breast Foundation and download the check yourself app or print out the check yourself card.

5 easy steps

Visit the Keep a Breast Foundation online store  https://shop.keep-a-breast.org/

 

 

 

Share

Breast Cancer, Because Reduced Risk Does Not Mean No Risk

by Terry Arnold

Editor’s note: Breastfeeding activists, such as myself, excitedly share the information that the relative risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3% for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds (you can read the abstract from the 2002 study here).  This is exciting information and something that should be shared but not to the exclusion of the reality that a reduced risk does not mean no risk.  Women, your health is important.  Breastfeeding can be one way to reduce your risk of breast cancer but it is not a guarantee.  Please take the time to be educated and informed and then for you, for your children and for the people that love you, learn the signs of the different types of breast cancer and don’t neglect your breast health.  This article by a beautiful friend of mine, Inflammatory Breast cancer survivor, science teacher (she’s taught my kids!), and mother of 5 breastfed children is one of the most important articles I’ve ever shared here on theleakyboob.com.  Terry is a hero, speaking out to educate others on this silent killer she has been blessed to survive.  I deeply appreciate her sharing with us, that she cares enough about us moms to risk telling us what we may not want to hear.  This article is not intended to frighten anyone, simply to help educate and share information. ~Jessica

Photo by bingeandpurge from deviantart.com

 

“You’re upsetting me”, she says and walks away….

Breast cancer, I talk about breast cancer. Especially in October (or “Pinktober” as it is sometimes called) as it is easier to strike up a conservation with a stranger due to the social focus on this disease. Today at a volunteer event to protect Galveston Bay, I asked the young woman standing near me if she had ever heard of IBC, Inflammatory Breast Cancer? She seemed a little confused at not being versed on IBC as she clearly was an educated woman savvy in women’s health issues. After a short delay, she said no, she had not heard of this type of breast cancer. I began to tell her about IBC, the cancer that is viewed as a rare but most fatal breast cancer often striking women prior to mammogram suggested age screenings. Her face tightened; unwittingly I had hit a nerve, as she told me there was a lot of breast cancer in her family. Within seconds calm washed over her face and she smiled and said, “But I will never get breast cancer!” Then I was the one at loss for words, “Why do you say that?” Her reply, “I have breastfed two children, each child over a year, so my breasts are resistance to cancer.” I sputtered for a minute…and I said, “I hate to tell you this, but I am a mom of five children, and nursed all of them at least to their first birthday, and I talk to women about IBC because I was diagnosed with this cancer the summer of 2007”.

Inflammatory Breast cancer is the most fatal of the known breast cancers and tends to hit women in younger years often prior to mammogram suggested age screening recommendations. Proper and aggressive treatment with IBC is very important and person’s presenting with IBC symptoms need to seek a diagnosis as soon as possible.

My heart was heavy after speaking to this beautiful young woman, because I think of myself as someone who encourages, gives hope and fights for education of a most aggressive cancer, which is dubbed “The Silent Killer.” As I watched her walk away, I felt like I had taken something from her, a confidence that breastfeeding was a given protector and that she could not get breast cancer, instead of my intention of giving her information that might be of benefit to her or others. All women need to be well educated on IBC, especially breastfeeding mothers. IBC is often misdiagnosed as mastitis or breast infection; the woman is given antibiotics and sent on her way. Time might heal all wounds, but with IBC time works against you and a proper and accurate diagnosis is very important. IBC is not detectable prior to a stage three, it does not present with a lump, is typically not found on a mammogram and the symptoms don’t fit what we tend to view as possible cancer threat.

 

Quick check list of symptoms of IBC

Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms may include:

• Breast swelling, which one breast is suddenly larger than the other
• Breast that feels warm to touch and may look infected
• Itching or shooting pain
• A dimpling of the breast skin that looks like an orange peel (peau d’orange)
• Thickening of the skin
• Flattened or discolored nipple
• Swelling in underarm or only on one side of neck
• Might feel lump, however lumps are not common in IBC.

It stands to reason that breastfeeding would aid in the good health of that child, as well as the mother. However it is not a magical cloak of protection from a disease that is viewed as seriously as IBC. So please from one breastfeeding mom to another, practice good breast health, read about IBC, and talk to your friends, midwives, and daughters. This conversation might be uncomfortable as it might go against what you believe to be true as to the benefits breastfeeding gives you as a woman, but we need to be willing to be uncomfortable sometimes, as knowledge is power. We need to be educated on IBC.

Resources:

www.theibcnetwork.org
Post questions to leading specialist about IBC, http://tinyurl.com/44n7xnq

 

  Terry Arnold was diagnosed with IBC in her right breast in August of 2007 after three months of    misdiagnosis. As if an IBC triple negative diagnosis was not enough of a blow, and never one to do things in a small way, she discovered her left breast had traditional cancer as well. In treatment for almost a year, Terry was blessed with so much support by family and friends that she was able to be of support to others with this disease even while still under care. Outside of being the best wife possible to her husband Calvin of 31 years and mother, mother in law and grandmother, she is focused on educating every person to learn more about IBC, its symptoms and best treatment plans. She looks forward to the day we can all remember than once, long ago, there was a disease called IBC that is now filed under an archive of past diseases because we have a cure. Hope always.
Share