October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a beautiful thing.
It's a month where people of all backgrounds and interests come together to spread awareness of the implications of breast cancer.
However, over time, the month seems to become more of an excuse to wear pink.
Companies advertise themselves as "cancer friendly" by promoting a pink ribbon product.
But at the same time, the company produces, manufactures and sells products linked to the disease.
You probably see pink-washing on a daily basis, and don't even realize it.
Take the NFL cheerleaders, for example. How are the NFL cheerleaders (who wear tiny pink spandex shorts with a hot pink bralette) advocating for women who have undergone chemotherapy and now have scars left for breasts?
I recently underwent the early detection process for breast cancer, and the knowledge I've gained could be potentially life-saving. I now feel this overwhelming responsibility to share this information with all the other young women out there.
1. Learn your family history.
I can't express enough how just finding out your family history alone can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If any women in your family (even your great aunt or great great grandmother) had breast cancer, it is important to get tested for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
According to the national cancer institute, BRCA1 and BRCA2 "are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins." Therefore, these gene mutations put you at a larger risk for not only breast cancer, but ovarian cancer as well.
The national cancer institute states:
According to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation, and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by 70 years old.
It has also been proven if you're of Ashkenazi Jewish decent (a sector of Judaism), you are genetically at a higher risk for breast cancer.
In addition, Norwegian, Icelandic and Dutch people are also at higher risks for breast cancer.
If you have now just realized you may be at a higher risk for breast cancer due to your family history, you might feel quite hesitant to get tested for BRCA.
However, I want you to know this simple blood test could end up saving your life, even if the results may be hard to swallow.
You should know the gene alone will not give you cancer.
However, having the knowledge of this gene mutation is probably the most powerful information a 20-something can have, in terms of breast cancer prevention.
If anything, I feel lucky I have this information.
I can guarantee, if you were to ask any woman with breast cancer if she would go back in time and take the necessary precautions in her 20s if given the chance, she would say yes in a heartbeat.
2. So I have BRCA. Now what?
I know this news isn't easy to hear.
But now that you have this piece of information, you have all the medical options in the world open to you.
According to the doctors, we have a "gene mutation."
But if you take a look at our gene pool, I'd say we're pretty awesome.
For example, Angelina Jolie found out she had BRCA1 and took the necessary precautions that were best for her. I'd be damned if someone told me she doesn't look absolutely amazing.
Choosing whether or not to have prophylactic surgery (which usually consists of removing the breast tissue and replacing it with an implant) is a personal decision no one else can make for you.
However, if you are interested in learning more about the different types of preventative surgeries for breast cancer, you can visit this fact sheet.
3. But what if I don't want to have surgery?
This is completely normal.
If surgery is not the route for you, or if surgery is the route for you but you want to take preventative precautions right now, I highly recommend you start with your diet.
The best part about breast cancer prevention is the prevention techniques include the most clear-cut ways to stay healthy. Low-fat diets are great for breast health.
You can do this by eating whole foods and organic foods (lots of fruits, veggies, pure grains, etc).
If you're curious to see how you can eliminate some of your fatty food cravings (burgers, fries and your late-night Domino's Pizza) from your weekly menu, reference my previous Elite Daily articles, "44 Get Fit Tips" and "Vegan Power."
Eating more vegetarian or vegan-based foods also allows you to get more fiber into your diet, which can help your immune system fight against cancer.
In addition, it is also essential to stop eating foods with added hormones.
So instead of picking up a carton of milk, try swapping it for a nice glass of almond milk.
4. Is it true having high levels of stress can actually lower your immune system?
While stress does not cause cancer, stressful events can alter the levels of hormones in the body and affect the immune system.
Regardless of whether you have the BRCA gene or not, stress affects our health.
Therefore, if you are overly stressed, you are not giving your body the strength it needs to fight off illnesses.
Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and have a family member or friend to vent to when necessary.
Maybe even pick up a hobby like yoga or hitting the gym, for a great sense of stress relief.
5. Swap toxic products for clean ones.
As women, many of us wake up in the morning and put on some moisturizer, a face-full of makeup and maybe a touch of hairspray to finish our look.
Boy, have I started to regret this lately.
I'm a "girly-girl" at heart, so no one is going to take away my love of cosmetics.
But after having done my research, I've certainly swapped out my brands.
According to The Huffington Post, common chemicals are embedded into commercialized makeup brands, such as parabens (cancer causing chemicals), synthetic colors (derived from petroleum or coal tar sources) and phthalates (endocrine disrupters).
These can significantly increase a woman's chance of having cancer.
In a one-year time period, the average women absorbs five pounds of chemicals from cosmetic use.
To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend using natural and organic cosmetic brands, such as Gabriel Cosmetics, and aluminum-free deodorants.
Switching to natural cosmetic brands is an imperative choice for our health.
To all my fellow women, please use the month of October to actually offer life-saving information to young women about early detection, instead of using it as an excuse to wear pink and "save our boobies" pins.
After all, it's not about saving "boobies" anyway.
It's about saving women.