Breast cancer. Just reading those words is enough to send a shiver down your—or any woman’s—spine. You probably know at least one friend or relative with breast cancer. In fact, the Philippines has the highest breast cancer rate in Asia, with 3 out of 100 Filipino women developing the disease before they reach the age of 75, according to a 2012 data by the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology. Some survive, while others eventually lose their battle against the disease.
With breast cancer being such a pervasive part of our lives, it’s important to know some of the facts surrounding it (after all, knowledge is probably the best defense you can possibly have).
1. Breast cancer is mroe common than you think.
As I’ve mentioned, 3 out of 100 Filipino women develop cancer before they even reach the age of 75. Yes, three in a room of 100 people—and one of them could be you. No one knows the exact cause of breast cancer. In fact, even doctors don’t know why one woman develops the disease and another doesn’t.
2. Breast cancer isn’t common in young women—but when it occurs, it’s deadlier.
Breast cancer is rarer but deadlier among young women because they are more likely to have more aggressive tumors, according to Lisa Carey, M.D., the medical director of the University of North Carolina Breast Cancer. They also tend to have denser breast tissue, making it more difficult for mammograms to detect tumors. Women only know they have it when they themselves notice the lumps—by which time the cancer is often more advanced.
3. Some types of birth control may up your risk for it.
Certain types of birth control can increase your risk for breast cancer (i.e. hormonal birth control), according to a study published in the April 2012 issue of Cancer Research. Don’t worry, though—once you quit the shot, your increased risk will dissipate after just a few months.
4. Lifestyle choices matter—a lot.
Most cancer-related deaths are attributed to poor diet and lack of exercise. The good news? You don’t have to be a total gym buff to reduce your risk of developing cancer In fact, according to a study published in Cancer found that even walking or other types of mild exercise can reduce breast cancer risk.
5. Being in the know may just save your life—or that of a loved one.
Be an advocate of your health and actively seek information about it. Ask questions during each doctor appointment and browse reliable websites. Do self-breast exams, too, so you can be familiar with how your breasts feel and look, which will then help you notice any changes.
6. Time is on your side.
It’s important to make healthy choices right now—but it’s just as important to be gentle with yourself. Some doctors will rush you into something, but remember that it’s about finding the right treatment, not the fastest one.
7. It’s your responsibility to find out just how much you’re at risk.
One of the most important things any woman can do is to know their family history for breast cancer. If you have a first-degree relative (e.g., mother or sister) who develops the disease at a young age, you’re at an increased risk. If it’s specifically ovarian cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing cancer.
If you’re a woman, awareness of these facts can save your life. Research breakthroughs don’t always come fast enough, and awareness is your first line of defense against the dreaded big C.