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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What Makes a Cruise Family Friendly?

Norwegian Jade cruise ship

            Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Do you ever think about taking a cruise, but can’t imagine how you will manage several days at sea with young children? When you begin to think about what it would be like to have the luxury of being on board a floating resort to a place you have always wanted to see, does your head flood with thoughts of dealing with dirty clothes, meals that aren’t kid-friendly, or worse yet, being trapped at sea with bored kids?

Then there are the what ifs that come to mind. What if one of us needs medical care while on the cruise ship? What if we have food allergies? What if we don’t have the right clothes  to wear?

During the past 14 years of my cruise travels, I’ve watched cruise ships evolve into cost-effective, affordable luxury vacations for families. Most cruise lines are family-friendly providing a variety of daily activities for every member of the family from grandparents down to little ones in diapers.

While children participate in complimentary, age appropriate day and evening youth programs conducted by trained staff,  adult members of the family have the free time to enjoy all the activities the cruise offers.

Cruise ships also anticipate the needs of families traveling with children as a standard practice. High chairs and cribs are available.The ship store carries diapers and other child care necessities, dining rooms have a supply of coloring materials on hand, and have a kid friendly menu. Each cabin on the ship is equipped with a refrigerator that can store baby bottles as well as healthy snacks.

The following services make a cruise family-friendly:

Cost-effective vacation: A cruise is often more cost-effective than a land resort vacation because most cruise costs are included in the per person rate for the cruise, including:

  • Meals/ snacks: All meals in the complimentary dining rooms, snacks such burgers, fries and hot dogs on  the pool decks, desserts  and unlimited coffee, tea, juices, milk, and soft serve ice cream are free throughout the trip. Soda and alcoholic beverages cost less if purchased through a beverage package.
  • Sea activities: Throughout the trip, all activities during the day and in the evening are free with the exception of the  game arcade, casino, and spa services.
  • Youth programs: All youth programs are complimentary. Program participation is on a first come, first served basis. Children are grouped by age. Staff are trained professionals experienced in providing recreational activities and supervising children and teens. There are children’s programs and programs for teens. Programs begin at 9 AM, break for lunch with family, begin again in the early afternoon and go until 5 PM. Evening programs begin at 7 PM and close at 10:30 PM. During land excursion days, children can remain in the youth programs. There is a small fee for staff supervision of  children remaining in program during meal times. To view a sample of a youth program,  Read About the Splash Program.
  • Family activities: In addition to pool side activities, water slides, basketball, table tennis, and shuffleboard, some ships have a bowling alley, volleyball and tennis courts. The library stocks current best sellers, and popular board games.
  • 2 Kids Sail Free is offered on several cruise ships making for an affordable family vacation. Other cruise ships offer reduced rates for children. Ages vary by cruise line from 17 years and under to 12 years and under.  Other cost saving promotions include on board credits that cover specialty dining packages for 2, beverage packages for 2, Internet access discounts, and shore excursion credits. Special group packages not only reduce the cost of a cruise, but also provide additional amenities not offered with regular cruise packages.

Laundry: Cruise ships either have self-service laundries on most floors, or they offer discounts for laundry services. You put the laundry out after dinner and it is delivered to your cabin, usually the next evening. If laundry service is an issue for you, before you book a cruise, check with the cruise line to determine if the have self service, a fee-based laundry service or both.

Dining: Cruise ships offer several complimentary restaurants including 2+ traditional dining rooms with waiter service; a less formal buffet dining experience, featuring a variety of ethnic foods and  a few eateries featuring pub foods or desserts. Another option is the Specialty Dining offerings that carry a charge, such as a steak house, dinner theater, French, Japanese or Italian restaurants. The charge connected with eating in these restaurants is less that what the same meal would cost at a land restaurant.

Medical Care: Cruise ships have on board medical services that are open for several hours a day, and a  medical staff on call round the clock.

This cruise article is the first of several  that will be published over the next two months. As the time clock on the right indicates, “Can Do” Street is scheduled to launch a new website, a resource for families who want to know more about the cruise experience. 

The next article, “Resorts at Sea” will published Sept 14th. It will introduce the amazing features of the new cruise ships to be launched in 2018.

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Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator

refrigerator

September is National Food Safety Education Month and consumers need to know that myths about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:
www.fightbac.org/food-safety-education/home-food-safety-mythbusters/

 

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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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Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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