by Carol Ann Donnelly
The New Year is a time for resolutions—promises to one’s self to eat clean, exercise regularly, lose weight and be healthy. But, what does healthy mean, and is there anything else we should do to ensure good health?
There are things that can be done that do not involve emptying your wallet on supplements and gym memberships in sacrifice for the eggnog and sweets consumed the previous month. Simple things that very few people think about; like doing monthly breast self-exams, having annual mammogram screenings for women over 40, and all women having clinical breast exams performed by medical professionals annually.
The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is a local organization that provides free holistic programs and services to people touched by breast cancer, and it also provides education on breast cancer awareness and good breast health throughout the community.
“Doing monthly BSE’s [breast self-exams]is an important component of good breast health.” Maureen DiPiero, the Community Outreach and Education Manager, for the foundation said.
In addition to performing monthly BSE’s, women should also have annual clinical breast exams performed by a medical professional, and an annual mammogram for women 40 and older. Combined, these exams will not prevent breast cancer, but they can help detect the disease at an earlier, survivable stage.
Despite the efforts of breast cancer organizations like the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation to promote breast cancer awareness and educate people on the facts regarding this disease, many myths surrounding who is susceptible to a diagnosis still exist. One of the biggest myths is that women who have no family history believe they are less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. However, 85-percent of newly diagnosed patients have no family history of breast cancer. It is also true that one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and eleven percent of those diagnosed will be women under 44 years old. One other myth that needs to be dispelled is that only women can be diagnosed with breast cancer. News flash! Men can and do get breast cancer. Approximately 2-percent of all breast cancer diagnoses will be men, and just under a quarter of them will die from the disease because it went undetected.
“Knowing your body and understanding your risks just makes sense.” DiPiero said.
Lifestyle behaviors can increase the risk of breast cancer, like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity. Certainly, people with a strong family history have a greater risk of developing the disease. A strong family history is indicated by a first-degree relative having been diagnosed (mother, sister, grandmother). Anyone at greater risk due to one of the above-mentioned risk factors should consult with her physician on the best screening method.
New Year resolutions to be healthy don’t have to be daunting intentions, filled with restrictions and grueling exercise regimens. Creating unattainable goals will ensure fleeting success and ultimate defeat. Make resolutions that are easy to keep and could save your life. Take ten minutes every month to perform a breast self-exam. Instructions on how to perform a BSE can be found at www.gloriagemma.org. Women forty and older should take five minutes to schedule their annual mammogram screening. And, all women should insist their primary medical professional perform a clinical breast exam as part of their annual physical.