I was twenty-one when I discovered my first lump on my left breast and the anxiety of not knowing engulfed me. Shortly afterwards I was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease. When I was 23, a doctor, showed me how to do a self breast exam and explained the different types of lumps found in women’s breasts.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease
This is not a disease. Some women’s breasts are lumpy. These lumps are fluid filled breast cysts that change with monthly hormonal cycles. Frequently, but not always, these women also experience breast tenderness or pain with their cycle. During a breast exam, cysts squirm under your fingers as gentle pressure is applied. They are round, feel like a bubble and vary in size. There may only be one lump, but more frequently several are found.
Fibroadenomas occur in woman of every age. There are several differences between fibroadenomas and fibrocystic breasts. A fibroadenoma is not tender and usually there is only one of them. They first appear round but frequently change shape as your breast tissues responds hormonal changes. They do not tend to come and go with your cycle. Fibroadenomas, like cysts, move under your fingers. A fibroadenoma rarely become cancerous.
Just as a cyst and fibroadenomas have specific characteristics, so do lumps formed by cancer. Cancerous lumps are not round or smooth. They have irregular shapes. Although a fibroadenoma can loose its mobility as you age, cancer, from the first time you notice it, does not squirm under your fingers. It feels fixed to the breast. A cancerous lump does not change with your cycle. Cancerous lumps are not tender, but the breast, the back or chest may ache. Frequently a woman’s lover discovers a cancerous breast lump.
In April 2009 Stats Can reported that breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women besides non-melanoma skin cancer. I wish we focused as much time and money on breast cancer prevention as we do on the cure. Although the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer has increased, the number of women being diagnosed and dying is abysmal. The April report states: each week 437 women in Canada are diagnosed with breast cancer, in the same week 104 die.
So what can you do…?
• Teach your daughters to eat well. A diet high in fat and low in fibre is a risk factor for both breast cancer and colon cancer. Breast cancer can develop from colon cancer. Recent studies suggest that dietary changes in your later years are helpful in reducing the changes of cancer, but the foundation of our health is laid down during earlier years. Eat well and teach your daughters to cook with whole foods.
• Rates of breast cancer are highest in black woman and northern women. Some suggest this is due to a lack of Vitamin D. Most of our Vit D is received from the sun. Blacks require prolonged exposure to the sun to absorb adequate Vit. D. Northerners simply do not get enough sunlight from late fall to early spring to metabolise Vit D from the sun. Take Vit. D.
• A glass of red wine a day is good for your health and reduces the risk cancer. However, two glasses of red wine several times a week enhances the risk of cancer. Alcohol increases estrogens levels in the blood. Most breast cancers live on estrogens. Too much alcohol equals too many estrogens. Hum, perhaps those beer ads featuring lovely men with beautiful abs just aren’t true.
• Avoid environmental estrogens. Many chemicals, including pesticides and plastics, turn to estrogens by the body. This again, increases estrogens levels in blood and feeds cancer.
• Buy bras that fit and do not pinch. Be sure your breasts are well supported when exercising. Continued irritation of the breast results in inflammation of breast tissue, cancer loves inflammation.
• Avoid foods, such as soda pops, that are high in sugar. Sugar shuts down the immune system. Your immune system constantly hunts down sick cells and eliminates them. If your immune system is weak, it can not do this important job.
There are lots of ways we can take care of ourselves. Take the time; be good to your body.