Canadian Living - - Contents - TEXT KAREN ROBOCK

Our com­pre­hen­sive guide to tak­ing care of your breasts

a disease that claimed the lives of 5,000 Cana­dian women last year. There is no easy an­swer, but the ex­perts agree there are things we can do to re­duce our risk. Read on for our com­pre­hen­sive guide to tak­ing care of your breasts.

Breast cancer is the most com­mon form of cancer among Cana­dian women (ex­clud­ing non­melanoma skin can­cers) and the sec­ond-lead­ing cause of cancer deaths. “Although the in­ci­dence of breast cancer can be con­cern­ing, the vast ma­jor­ity—80 to 90 per­cent— of women will be long-term sur­vivors, and the out­look is grow­ing bet­ter ev­ery year,” says Dr. Eva Grun­feld, vice-chair of re­search in the de­part­ment of fam­ily and com­mu­nity medicine at the Univer­sity of Toronto and di­rec­tor of the knowl­edge trans­la­tion re­search pro­gram at the On­tario In­sti­tute for Cancer Re­search.

Although the sta­tis­tics aren’t bad news, per se, con­fu­sion and con­cern around the disease never seem to sub­side. “Breast cancer is a scary thought for many women,” says MJ De­coteau, di­rec­tor and founder of Re­think Breast Cancer, a Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for young women with breast cancer. “The site of the disease, be­ing in the breast, af­fects women in a per­sonal way,” she says. “Breasts are connected to your fem­i­nin­ity, sex­u­al­ity, body im­age, moth­er­hood—all of those things.” As a re­sult of the fear and con­fu­sion around breast cancer, young women tend to over­es­ti­mate their risk, says De­coteau. “Just five per­cent of new di­ag­noses are women un­der 40.”

At the same time, older women don’t fully un­der­stand their risk, ei­ther, and tend to un­der­es­ti­mate the ways in which they can proac­tively re­duce their chances of get­ting the disease. “In my clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as my re­search ex­pe­ri­ence, most women don’t know that some of the life­style fac­tors theyʼre aware of for other chronic dis­eases can also have an im­pact on breast cancer risk,” says Dr. Grun­feld. The bot­tom line: Don’t worry—but be in­formed and take ac­tion.

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