Breast cancer affects one in eight women, and it is estimated that about 220,000 women are diagnosed each year, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Thankfully, early diagnosis and treatment most often leads to a full recovery. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the disease and the critical importance of testing for early detection, as well as to raise funds for research and other important endeavors.
Fundraising for Breast Cancer Awareness
There are several ways to participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Foundation accepts direct donations and provides information about holding charity events – whether concert, art show, breast cancer walk or other event. If you are participating in a sporting event, you have the option to create a personal fundraising page as well. You can also discover various events you can attend in the Washington, DC area through the Foundation’s website.
Health insurance plans, under the Affordable Care Act (commonly called “Obamacare”), have a mandate to provide mammograms without a co-pay or deductible, with some exceptions. It is important that you have health insurance that allows you to be screened for breast cancer on a regular basis. At Alliance Insurance Services in Washington, DC, our local team is always available to answer your questions about your health insurance coverage, as well as life insurance to protect those you love.
Taking Your Health Into Your Own Hands
Women are far more educated about breast cancer, in large part due to the efforts made by survivors and families of survivors who have taken it upon themselves to inform and educate women across the nation. Some of the most important ways to stay healthy that are known include:
Self-examination: The American Cancer Society provides information about breast self-examination and its benefits – and limits. Find out how to do a breast self-examination (BSE) and keep a schedule. If you notice any changes in appearance, unusual pain, or other symptoms, see your doctor. In many cases these symptoms are not cancer, but should always be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Clinical examination: A doctor, nurse, nurse-practitioner, or other medical professional can perform a clinical examination to check for breast cancer. Watching how your healthcare provider does the exam can be a good method by which you can learn how to correctly perform a self-examination.
Mammogram: A mammogram can reveal the presence breast cancer, and these tests are performed yearly. This is the most common type of breast cancer test, including for healthy women. The goal is to detect the presence of the disease early.
Diagnostic testing: If there is a suspicion of breast cancer, a biopsy can be performed to determine if a breast abnormality is cancerous.
DNA testing: Some women have a higher risk of breast cancer due to the presence of specific genetic markers. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce proteins that suppress tumors. If either of these two genes are mutated a woman may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. These mutations are passed on from parent to child, and if one parent has the mutation, there is a 50/50 chance that a child will also have it. DNA testing can reveal this mutation.
Other tests: There are a range of other tests that could detect breast cancer, including PET scans, blood tests, ultrasound and others. Talk to your doctor and get information about what type of test is appropriate for you.
Risk Factors: The Do’s and Don’ts
Although leading a healthy lifestyle cannot fully protect against any disease, there are certain factors that are known to increase the potential for developing breast cancer. The standard health rules can help you be at lower risk of developing the disease, including exercising, eating a nutritious diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. The factors that increase the risk of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society include:
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol has been clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Weight: Keeping your weight at a reasonable level is important, as being overweight or obese after menopause is known to increase risk.
Exercise: Even the most limited exercise reduces the risk, so take a walk! As little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week of walking reduces risk by 18%.
Smoking: There are studies that indicate there is a link to increased risk if you smoke tobacco, affecting younger women particularly.
Aging: Older women are more likely to get breast cancer, and 2 out of three cases are in women over 55 years of age.
Family history: If your family has a history of breast cancer, you may be at higher risk.
Birth control: Women who have taken birth control pills are at slightly higher risk.
Hormone therapy: Many women were prescribed combined hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) and are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
At Alliance Insurance Services, we all live and work in the Washington area, and we support all efforts that help keep the people in our community healthy. We are here to assist with any health insurance or life insurance questions, and are always available to review your existing policies and advise you about a better plan, less expensive health insurance plan, or higher levels of coverage. We make ourselves available during normal work hours and off-hours too. We are here to help you have the right insurance to protect your family, so you can stay healthy. Call us!