WE ALL WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO TO AVOID BREAST CANCER,
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.