Do you Know your Breast Cancer Risks?

breast cancer awareness month logo During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am stepping out of my role as creator and writer for “Can Do Street, and stepping into my breast cancer survivor advocacy role. As a survivor of two primary breast cancers, 10 years apart, I’m asking you to consider what you know about your risks for breast cancer.

First, let me share that I am here today because of annual mammograms that found my cancers when they were still small and easy to treat. I didn’t need chemotherapy for either cancer because both were caught very early, before they spread beyond my breasts.

A few years after my first breast cancer, in 1999, I accepted a position as director of  the American Cancer Society’s NYC Patient Navigator Program. During the years I  was with the program, I met with thousands of women and several men diagnosed with breast cancer. Many believed the myths I share below; as a result they did not bother with comprehensive breast exams or, if over 40, annual mammograms.

From 2010 to 2014, I published a breast cancer blog. This experience continues to bring me in contact with women and men newly diagnosed with breast cancer, many of whom felt they had nothing to worry about as a result of believing one or more of the myths that circulate about breast cancer.

Sometimes we embrace myths about breast cancer rather than deal with the realities of the disease. Unfortunately myths can paralyze us and put us in danger. Here are some myths about breast cancer, that many accept as facts:

1. Breast Cancer Doesn’t Run in My Family, I’m Safe – Eighty to eighty-five percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

2. I’m Too Young for Breast Cancer – Breast cancer can affect women of any age. While the disease is more common in post-menopausal women, 5% of women diagnosed are between the ages of 20 and 39 years.

3. Breast Cancer Is a Death Sentence – When caught early, up to 98 percent of women survive at least five years.

4. All Breast Lumps Are Cancerous – Most breast lumps are not cancer, but all lumps should be checked thoroughly by a doctor.

5. Herbal Remedies and Dietary Supplements Can Help Treat Breast Cancer – No herbal remedy, dietary supplement or alternative therapy has been scientifically proven to treat breast cancer.

6. My Breast Lump is Painful, So it Must Not be Cancer – Not true; there’s no correlation between whether the lump is painful and whether it’s cancerous. Any lump needs to be checked by a doctor.

7. Breast Cancer is a Punishment from God- no, it is a disease

8. Stress Causes Breast Cancer – it doesn’t

9. Breast Cancer Jumps from one Breast to the Other – it doesn’t

10.Touching yourself in performing a breast exam is wrong- no, it can save your life

11. Men don’t get breast cancer– yes, they do

12. Mammograms hurt-not as much as childbirth

Risk Factors:

  • Having breast tissue
  • Aging
  • Genetic factors – BRCA gene mutations
  • Being significantly overweight
  • Having dense breasts
  • Moderate to heavy drinking
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy

Additional Facts:

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer
  • One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Today there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Until we can prevent breast cancer, early detection is critical to surviving !

  • If you are under 40, with no known risk factors, get a comprehensive breast exam when you get your annual pap test. If you are over 40, get an annual mammogram. Make it digital!
  • Don’t let being uninsured keep you from getting a mammogram or a pap smear. Call your local Dept. of Health and ask them to guide you in accessing services from the Federal Center for Disease Control’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP),

Please share these myths, facts and risks about breast cancer with the women in your life.

 

Sources: American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health

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Heart Healthy Foods

healthyHealthfinder.gov suggests you follow these eating tips for a healthy heart:

  1. Eat less saturated and trans fat. Stay away from fatty meats, fried foods, cakes, and cookies.
  2. Cut down on sodium (salt). Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” brands of canned soups, vegetables, snack foods, and lunch meats.
  3. Get more fiber. Fiber is in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Take this list with you the next time you go food shopping.

Healthy Vegetables and Fruits

Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. To save money, buy vegetables and fruits that are in season, frozen, or canned.

  • Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and spinach
  • Leafy greens for salads
  • Canned vegetables low in sodium (salt)
  • Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauces
  • Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and peaches
  • Canned fruit in 100% juice, not syrup
  • Dried fruit
  • Frozen berries without added sugar

Healthy Milk and Milk Products

Look for fat-free or low-fat milk products. Or choose soy products with added calcium.

  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Cheese (3 grams of fat or less per serving)
  • Soy-based drinks with added calcium (soymilk)

Healthy Breads, Cereals, and Grains

For products with more than one ingredient, make sure whole-wheat or whole-grain is listed first.

  • 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-grain breakfast cereals like oatmeal
  • Whole grains such as brown or wild rice, barley, and bulgur
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta

Healthy Meat, Beans, Eggs, and Nuts

Choose lean cuts of meat and other foods with protein.

  • Seafood, including fish and shellfish
  • Chicken and turkey breast without skin
  • Pork: leg, shoulder, tenderloin
  • Beef: round, sirloin, tenderloin, extra lean ground beef
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Nuts and seeds

Healthy Fats and Oils

Cut back on saturated fat and look for healthy products with no trans fats.

  • Margarine and spreads (soft, tub, or liquid) with no trans fats
  • Vegetable oil (canola, olive, peanut, or sesame oil)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Light or fat-free salad dressing and mayonnaise

 

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Bringing Germs Home From School

 

As a habitat for germs, a school is not that different from any other location on our germ-filled planet.

Bacteria and viruses are always with us, and we literally couldn’t live without them. In fact, there are 10 times as many microbes in a healthy human body as there are actual human cells, and many of those microbes play critical roles in our survival.

Of course, not all germs are benevolent and schools, though they may be no more crowded with germs than offices or homes, are excellent environments for the transmission of all sorts of germs from person to person.

Children are particularly good at passing germs among themselves. They share paper and scissors in the classroom. They might share a drink at lunch. At recess, they do a lot of touching. To make matters worse, they are not very good at keeping themselves clean, and, even if they could be counted on to wash, they don’t always have easy access to soap and water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control,  the primary means of transmission is by sneezing and coughing, when infected droplets spread through the air and reach the noses and mouths of people nearby. Those droplets can also reach other surfaces, and infection can be spread to someone who touches an infected surface and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth. According to the CDC, some of those infectious agents can live for two hours or more after they land.

It follows, then, that avoiding germs at school depends on the behavior of people in two different situations.

On one hand, there are the children who are already ill, including those who have not yet begun to develop a full range of symptoms. The CDC recommends that those children cover their coughs and sneezes, preferably with a tissue, and wash their hands after every cough or sneeze. If tissues are not available, coughing or sneezing into the crook of the elbow is a better option than using the hands.

No one can guaranty that those practices will always be followed, so children who are in the vicinity of sneezing classmates may have to take some of their own precautions. For them, the two most important steps are washing hands frequently and trying not to touch their own eyes, noses and mouths after they have touched a potentially infected surface.

When children remember to use them, soap and water are effective against germs, but a quick rinse is not enough. It is important to spend enough time washing.  Many authorities recommend the “Happy Birthday” method: Wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing the one song all kids know, “Happy Birthday to You,” two times from beginning to end.

When children do not have the option of soap and water, gel and alcohol-based sanitizers kill germs just as well.

School bathrooms have more than their share of germs, but at least they are equipped with sinks that kids can use. Even so, children should learn to avoid touching surfaces like doorknobs and taps when possible, and to use a paper towel when touch is unavoidable.

In the end, there is no magic bullet.

Germs are everywhere, but children can take some simple steps to minimize, if not eliminate, the chance of coming down with a miserable cold or flu.

Sources:

This guest post is by Staci Marks, an earlier contributor to this site. Ms. Marks has a passion for health, fitness and exercise, which has led her to pursue a career in writing. She works as a part-time health-care writer at www.healthinsurancequotes.org/articles/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=human-microbiome-change

www.webmd.com/parenting/d2n-stopping-germs-12/germs-at-school?

 

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Back to School Health and Safety Tips

School

It’s that time again; it’s back to school time with all the prep and practical planning needed to launch the school year for your child(ren). The American Academy of Pediatrics shares about health and safety tips at the start of the school year as follows. 

MAKING THE FIRST DAY of SCHOOL EASIER

  • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school.  She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL

Review the basic rules with your student:

SCHOOL BUS

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts.}

CAR

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver 

BIKE

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

WALKING TO SCHOOL

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice.  Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child’s lunch.


BULLYING

Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
    1. Look the bully in the eye.
    2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
    3. Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
    1. “I don’t like what you are doing.”
    2. “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
    3. “Why would you say that?”
  • Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied.
  • Encourage your child to include children being bullied in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.


BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During early and middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.
  • Some children need help organizing their homework.  Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

 

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Campfire Safety

campfire

Most camping brochures feature a picture of adults and kids sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and telling stories. But, a campfire requires following safety guidelines if campers are to be safe and the campground protected against fire.

The following campfire safety tips are from Idaho Firewise.

Most campgrounds already have preexisting fire rings to use. Unless the fire ring is in a dangerous spot, you should build your fire there. The campground owners have likely already deemed this as a safe location to build a campfire. The fire ring will help contain sparks and prevent your fire from spreading.

If your campsite does not have a fire ring, you will need to create one. First find a spot that meets these criteria:

  • Downwind at least 15 feet away from your tent and firewood
  • Away from trees, bushes, logs, stumps and overhanging branches
  • Away from dry grass and forest debris
  • Away from any other flammable items

If your campsite does have a fire ring already, check if it meets the above criteria too. The landscape around your campsite could have changed since the fire ring was initially built. There might now be a branch that overhangs the current fire ring. For example, now there might be branches overhanging the old fire ring.

Once you have chosen where to build your campfire, you need to ensure the area is completely clear of any combustible material that could possibly ignite. It is best to clear the ground right down to the soil, and out five (5) feet from the fire pit. Fires can spread underground through root systems or decaying material. Surrounding twigs and dry leaves can easily catch fire from a wayward spark.

After the ground has been cleared, dig a shallow pit about two (2) feet across and encircle this pit with a ring of medium-sized rocks. These rocks should be tightly placed together, without any gaps where sparks could fly through. Remove any small, loose stones from the pit that could potentially explode from the fire’s heat.

Before you begin building the campfire, make sure you have equipment on hand to extinguish a fire. A responsible camper will not light the first match until he or she is sure there is a bucket of water or sand nearby to douse unruly flames in the event of an emergency. You will need a large bucket of water and a shovel. Keep these things close enough to the fire pit that they are quickly accessible in an emergency.

Avoid using lighter fluid, or any other chemicals, to start your fire. These fuels are dangerous to use in the wilderness. They can unexpectedly flare-up and catch your clothing on fire. Always use a lighter or match to ignite the kindling. Do not discard any used matches until they are cool to the touch.

While your campfire is burning, never leave it unattended. Despite safety precautions, the campfire could spread from your fire pit. You need to remain in the area to ensure your campfire doesn’t spread.

Be careful what you burn in a campfire. Try to stick to manageable pieces of firewood that easily fit within your fire pit. It is not a good idea to burn large logs that stick out past the fire pit. Also, avoid burning fresh branches that give off excess sparks.

Before you go to sleep, or when you leave the campsite, you must fully extinguish your campfire. First, douse the flames by pouring water on the fire. However, you are not done yet. Just because you can’t see flames, does not mean the fire cannot re-ignite. Hot embers will continue smoldering for hours. To deal with the embers, stir the coals and add more water. Then cover the coals with dirt or sand. Feel the ashes with your hand to make sure there are no hot coals left.

It is far too easy for a campfire to spread and become a forest fire. When you are camping, it is your responsibility to protect the forest from your campfire. Follow these simple campfire safety rules and use common sense. Sometimes, it simply is not safe to have a campfire at all.

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