Breast cancer tops all cancers for women across the globe with more than 1.7 million new breast cancer cases detected worldwide in 2012 alone. Women who live in developed countries such as the United States, England and Australia experience a higher rate of breast cancer incidences. In October 1985, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiated its inaugural health campaign to support research, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and a cure for the disease. Today, widespread international communities join in setting aside every October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In 2015, an estimated 25,000 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,000 will die from it. Approximately 68 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day. Approximately 14 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every day. 1 in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime (age 90) and 1 in 29 will die from it. It is expected that 220 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 will die from it.
To beat breast cancer, prevention through a healthy lifestyle and early detection are key. Our in-home health agency works predominantly with seniors, and many older women think they are immune from breast cancer, but they are not. Age increases breast cancer rates.
In 2015, it was estimated that 82% of new breast cancer cases would occur in Canadian women over the age of 50; 52 percent of breast cancers would be diagnosed in women 50 to 69 years of age; and 30 percent of breast cancers would be diagnosed in women over the age of 69.
About 1 in 5 breast cancers (18%) will be diagnosed in women less than 50 years of age. For women 30 to 49 years of age, the risk of being diagnosed with any type of cancer is 0.2 percent (or 1 in 500). While this risk is very low, about 36 percent of cancers diagnosed in this age group will be breast cancer.
As part of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we recommend a review of the following breast cancer risk factors, symptoms and prevention guidelines.
Breast Cancer Common Risk Factors
Certain known risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, including the following:
- Genetic Risk Factors
- Age—Two-thirds of breast cancer develops after age 55.
- Gender—Women are nearly 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer.
- Race and ethnicity—White women are at a slightly higher risk than African-American women for developing breast cancer. Breast cancer is more common in African-American women under age 45.
- Family history—Having a parent, sister or child diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer increases a person’s own risk for breast cancer (the risk is even higher if the relative was diagnosed before age 50).
- Personal breast cancer history—A person with cancer in one breast is at higher risk for future breast cancer in another part of the same breast or in the other breast.
- Inherited genes—Roughly 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer is connected to hereditary defects or mutations passed from a parent. The most common of these abnormal genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2.
- Menstrual and reproductive history—Starting menstruation before age 12 or going into menopause after age 55 increases breast cancer risk. Never giving birth or having a first child in older age are also risk factors.
- Dense breast tissue—Breasts that have more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue are considered dense breasts. Women with dense breasts have up to twice the risk for breast cancer.
- Environmental or Lifestyle Risk Factors
- Physical inactivity—A sedentary lifestyle heightens breast cancer risk.
- Excess body weight—Being overweight or obese adds to the likelihood of breast cancer.
- Alcohol—Drinking two to five drinks daily increases the possibility of breast cancer by 1½ times.
- Birth control—Oral and injectable birth control have shown to elevate the risk level for breast cancer. Once oral contraceptive pills are stopped, the risk appears to return to normal over time.
- Combined hormone replacement therapy—The use of both estrogen and progesterone hormones after menopause suggests a link to higher breast cancer incidence and the possibility of dying of breast cancer.
- Chest radiation exposure—Radiation therapy to the chest before age 30 can raise breast cancer occurrence.
As with many types of cancer, adjustments in everyday life habits can help lower breast cancer risk. Growing evidence shows that avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol are significant in preventing breast cancer. Controlling weight through a nutritious diet and regular exercise adds a protective effect. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she’ll develop breast cancer. Preventing exposure to high doses of radiation and environmental pollutants also lowers breast cancer cases.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Regular mammography screening helps detect breast cancer in an early stage, but not all breast cancers are detected through mammography.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends:
- If you are 40 to 49: Talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography.
- If you are 50 to 69: Have a mammogram every 2 years.
- If you are 70 or older: Talk to your doctor about how often you should have a mammogram.
Research has shown that women who have mammograms regularly are less likely to have a false positive (when the test results suggest cancer when none is present). We also know that if you do have cancer, it is more likely to be detected when you have mammograms regularly.
Your doctor may also do a physical examination of your breasts (a clinical breast examination) to check for signs of cancer.
Warning signs for breast cancer differ among women, but the most common symptoms are:
- A hard knot, lump or thickening of the breast or underarm tissue.
- A change in the size or feel of the breast or nipple.
- Discharge from the nipple.
- Redness, swelling, warmth or darkening of the breast.
- A scaly, itchy rash or sore on the breast or nipple (it may resemble the pitted skin of an orange).
- Puckering or dimpling of breast skin.
- A recent change in the symmetry of the breasts.
Performing monthly breast self-exams can help with earlier detection of a potential problem.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
After breast cancer is diagnosed, the patient’s medical team will determine the disease’s progression and suggest the most effective treatment options. Seeking a second medical opinion may be beneficial. Standard breast cancer treatment includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Breast cancer-targeted therapy uses drugs to block specific cancer cells from growing. Depending on the size and location of the tumor and the effect on nearby lymph nodes, a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor) is advised, and in other cases, women choose to have a mastectomy (removal of part or all of the breast).
How We Can Help
With a unique approach and a higher level of quality of care, Right at Home Canada offers both non-medical and medical care to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. We also offer in-hospital support and post hospital support through our team of dedicated nurses and caregivers.
This October, get screened and get active in support of Breast Cancer!
Online Support Resources:
Buying gifts for anyone during the holidays can be a daunting task, especially if it is for someone who has accumulated generations of hobbies and interests. Here are 10 great gift ideas for older adults of any age:
- Art Supplies: Adult colouring books are all the rage and help with mindfulness whilst calming anxiety.
- An IPAD or similar device: Newfangled electronic devices are a great way for older adults to exercise brain power. They offer easy to use touch screens and large print options. They are also an amazing idea for staying in touch and allowing for family members who are long distances away to see each other on a consistent basis.
- Puzzles: Picture puzzles or word problems can help keep the mind sharp and are a fun way to spend time together. Puzzles are especially good for those suffering from Alzheimer’s in low piece count options.
- Tickets to a play or cultural passes: Local recreation centres offer great activities from museum and zoo tours to attending cultural community events. If you know your loved one likes one specific place why not buy them a seasons pass?
- Tea: Generally speaking, tea is a great gift to give anyone. Many older people, especially if immobile, are not aware that there are now entire stores dedicated to making and selling incredible combinations of teas. Broaden their taste buds with some new tea mixtures or accessories.
- Membership to a gym or meeting with a nutritionist: Stay- ing social and active are very important factors in warding off medical issues as you age. The gym is a great place to work out at your own pace while still staying social in group classes.
- Gift certificates for senior services and care: What do you get
the older adult in your life who has everything? Peace of mind and the ability to age in their own home is a wonderful gift. Many caregiving services, like ours, offer gift certificates that can be used towards any care services such as meal delivery, respite care companions or transportation to doctors appointments.
- A pet: Research shows pet companionship improves the physical health and mental well-being of older adults, even reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels and physician visits. Please speak with your loved one and ask them before purchasing them a pet to make sure they are on board with the idea and have the ability to properly care for the animal.
- Personalized photo albums: Put together a family photo album or scrapbook. Many online sites make it even easier by placing all of your photos into a book and shipping it for you.
- Home safety equipment: Grab bars, specialized dinnerware, and even simple tools such as grippers for helping to open jars can make the life of a personal with arthritis or other aging ailments easier.
If you are an older adult reading this blog post thinking that you also have limited ideas on what to purchase for your family members or friends bridging the generational gap, comment or email us and we can help!
Mothers are often the ones coaxing their children to socialize and make friends with other children. Science is now proving that mother’s friendship-prodding may actually save your life one day. Establishing and maintaining social connections as you grow older helps both men and women stay healthier, age well and live longer.
The U.S. Harvard Women’s Health Watch in 2010 reported on a study that examined data from more than 309,000 people. The analysis found that those without satisfying family ties or social bonds with friends, neighbors or colleagues are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely. The mortality risk is comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.
Researchers have long noted how social interaction affects mental and physical health. Going it alone is linked to depression, higher blood pressure and cognitive decline with age. Countering an isolated life with rewarding relationships does more than increase longevity.
Personal companionship is shown to:
• Boost the immune system.
• Improve cardiovascular health.
• Release stress-reducing hormones.
• Enhance nutrition and digestion.
• Regulate the body’s blood sugar level. • Lift self-esteem.
• Decrease the length of hospital stays.
A widespread Swedish study noted that people 75 and older who continue with meaningful connections to family and friends also exhibit reduced dementia risk. Overall, social support seems to help older adults have a better quality of life in general.
“Sharing your ups and downs with others lightens the load of daily living,” said Laura Greenway- Balnar. “We find this especially true with the older adults we serve. Many seniors struggle with the loss of a spouse, decreased mobility and a diminished outlook for the future. I am always encouraged to see how extending a kindness, a listening ear and caring friendship helps older loved ones stay happier and healthier.”
As scientists continue to investigate the health benefits for older adults who engage with others, the positive news is that cultivating your companionship circle is possible at any age. Consider these relationship-building tips:
- Foster relationships that bring joy. Life is too short to surround yourself with negative or ill-tempered people. Bond more with people who truly make you smile.
- Mentor someone. Thousands of people from young kids to older adults could benefit from coaching in reading or math to life skills and decision making. Your life experience is valuable.
- Volunteer. Volunteers are needed for animal shelters, hospitals, libraries and schools.
- Join group activities. Community clubs or local recreation centres offer enjoyable activities from museum and zoo tours to attending community events.
- Invite others for coffee or a meal. Aim for a once-a-week gathering for coffee or a meal. Meet out, dine in or make a simple meal together.
- Develop a solid rapport with grandchildren and younger adults. Learn about each other’s interests and enjoy fun activities together. Ask each other for help or advice (help with cooking, computers, falling in love, etc.).
- Share family histories and photo albums. Take time to recall classic family adventures.
- Put together a family photo album and make copies for everyone in the family (it makes a nice gift too!)
- Include friends and family in everyday routines. Need to run errands? Invite along a companion. Routinely walk? Grab a partner. Common tasks and exercise sessions are typically more fun when shared with others.
- Fall in love with a pet. Research shows pet companionship improves the physical health and mental well-being of older adults, even reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels and physician visits.
For those who cannot be present as a caregiver or regular companion to older loved ones, Laura recommends contacting a homecare organization to provide companionship services, such as playing games, assisting with meal preparation and errands. This type of homecare support can also keep you up to date on how your loved one is doing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Experts advise that having hundreds of social media and email friends does not ensure the same health benefits as engaging with others in regular, face-to-face contact. While it is fun to message and post away online, remember that a smile, a hug, a couple of laughs and conversation with another human – in person – may well clear your arteries, protect your memory and lengthen your longevity. So as you age, continue to engage well with others because doing so is a true lifesaver.
About the Author of this Blog Post:
Laura Greenway-Balnar is both Owner and President of Right at Home Canada in Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. Right at Home Canada offers both non-medical and medical support to seniors and adults with disabilities who want to continue to live at home safely, comfortably and independently. For more information on Right at Home Canada, visit http://www.rightathomecanada.com/guelph or contact our local head office for the tri-city area at 1-844-2320-4663 (HOME) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Right at Home Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo (Tri-City) Blog! At Right at Home, we are The Heart of Homecare. We provide the Right Care, the Right Way, with the Right People, for the Right Reasons.
Issues affecting seniors and their families, is a subject we hold both near and dear to our hearts. We have been caregivers, parents, children and companions to those dealing with matters such as loneliness, poor nutrition, dementia, arthritis, mental health illness and chronic diseases, such as cancer. We have taken our passion, our experience and our caregiving nature to professionally and respectively support older adults and adults with disabilities to stay in their homes, comfortably, safely and independently.
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