Do you Know your Breast Cancer Risks?

breast cancerDuring 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 year after my first breast cancer, I accepted a position as director of American Cancer Society’s NYC Patient Navigator Program, I  met with thousands of women 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.

In 2010, I began publishing a breast cancer blog This experience continues to bring me in contact with women and men newly diagnosed with breast cancer, many of whom also believed they were safe from best cancer for 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

The American Cancer Society’s  estimates for new breast cancers in the United States for 2015:

  • About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women (spread beyond the lobules or ducts)
  • About 60,290 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,290 deaths from breast cancer (women)
  • About 2,000 new cases in men with over 400 men dying from the disease

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

Where Do You Find the Most and Worst Germs in Public?

Before you leave the house, be sure to grab your hand sanitizer, you’re going to need it! Where are the germs lurking in the everyday things you do in public?

germsOur Favorite Eateries

Did you know that restaurant menus have 100 times more germs than a toilet seat? Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, states that menus are handled many times each day, but are only wiped down once a day, if that, and usually with a used rag. His advice…don’t wash your hands before you sit down in a restaurant, wait until you order from the menu and then go scrub up or break out the hand sanitizer. He also suggests that you never rest your silverware on top of a menu.

When eating out, carry your own lemon or lime crystals if you usually squeeze a lemon or lime wedge in your beverage. Researchers recently examined wedges from the rims of glasses served to customers and found that nearly 70% of the lemons had disease-causing microbes, which could definitely cause some nasty stomach problems.

Moving on to the ATM Machine

When you think about it hundreds of fingers hit the ATM buttons each day leaving their share of germs and picking up ones left behind by previous users. The bank’s revolving door also has a collection of customer germs. The money that comes out of the ATM also carries its share of germs. In fact, the flu virus can live on a dollar bill for 17 days! ATM companies hope to roll out touch screens with antimicrobial glass to combat cold and flu. But, until then, your best bet is to use a pen when hitting the ATM buttons. It wouldn’t hurt to sanitize your hands after visiting a bank and handling money.

Playgrounds are Bacteria Breeding Grounds

On any given day many children use the swings, monkey bars and sandboxes in community playgrounds. Yet playgrounds are rarely cleaned. The sandbox is the worst with 36 times more germs than a restaurant tray. Be prepared to sanitize your child’s hands as he or she moves from one piece of playground equipment to another.

Hotel Rooms Have Their Own Share of Unexpected Germs

If you guessed that the TV remote is the dirtiest thing in the room, you would be right. Before you use it, wipe it with a sanitizer cloth. The lamp switches, hair dryer, telephone, and unwrapped drinking glasses also need a good wiping with something that can sanitize them before you use them. Bedspreads can also be harboring germs. You may want to remove them before getting into bed.

Elevator Buttons

Many of us choose to use a tissue when touching a door handle, but how clean are elevator buttons. How often are they cleaned? It might be best to sanitize your hands after using the elevator.

Public Pools

The Centers for Disease Control found that more than half of pools test positive for E. coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea. No surprise there, given how many young children urinate in pools and have bowel accidents as well. Also, not everyone showers before entering a pool; some adults swim with skin eruptions and others adults and children have colds and transmittable illnesses.

Grocery Store Grime

Many stores now have sanitizer dispensers and encourage shoppers to wipe down the cart handle before putting your hands on it. If you put a small child in the seat, wipe down this area also as lots of other kids sat there wearing dirty diapers. Don’t put your fresh produce in the seating area or you will take home a lot more than you bargained for.

Public Transportation

Bus straps, exit handles, poles, just anywhere that others touch or grab are sources of multiple germs. Railings leading up and down train and subway entrances and exits are used by thousands of people each day. Be aware. Keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth until you can sanitize them after using public transportation.

Public Bathrooms

Whether you have to use a bathroom in a department store, community center or other facility, practice defensive hygiene including using a tissue to operate the flush, turn the water on and off, and enter and leave the bathroom stall and main door. Line the toilet seat with toilet paper before using it, if toilet seat covers are not available. If wearing slacks, roll the pant legs up so they don’t touch the floor when you sit down. When using the soap dispenser, don’t put your hand on the opening of the dispenser, The soap scum can be a source of germs from those who used it before you. Whenever possible, use paper towels don’t air dry your hands.

Rethinking the Bag Lunch

bag lunchThe brown paper bag lunch was the lunch of choice, well actually the only choice for school lunch when my son was in elementary school.

There was no school cafeteria, just a lunch room where he could purchase a container of milk and sit with friends eating, sharing and trading what was in his brown paper bag.

Given the lack of refrigeration at his school, my daily challenge was to pack a lunch that wouldn’t spoil between the time he left for school and his lunch period.

Today’s elementary schools have cafeterias, where a child can purchase lunch or, if he or she qualifies, participate in a subsidized lunch program. However this is not the case in many daycare centers and preschools where a child must still carry his or her own lunch.

A recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, raised concerns about the safety of carrying and eating a bag lunch even when the lunch is in an insulated bag that contain ice packs or other coolant.

About half of daycare centers in the U.S. require kids to bring lunch from home. The investigators examined lunches of 235 daycare attendees at nine Texas centers. The individual contents of their sack lunches were assessed on three random days between 9:30 and 11 a.m.

Of the 705 lunches, 11.8% were stored in a refrigerator, but teachers often left them sitting out for a couple hours first. The rest were stored at room temperature in cubbies without much air circulation.

While about 91% of the lunches were sent in insulated plastic bags, the mean temperature of food items reached nearly room temperature (63.7 °F). Just 22 of the 1361 perishable food items (1.6%) were in the “safe” range below 39.2°F.

Ice packs didn’t help much. Only five of the 61 perishable food items with multiple ice packs in the lunch bag stayed the right temperature (8.2%).

Investigators found nearly all lunches packed from home got too warm to prevent food-borne illness despite use of ice packs. Even with the use of multiple ice packs, more than 90% of perishables in the lunches reached unsafe temperatures.

The study points to the need for:

  • Preschool and daycare staff receiving more training in food safety
  • Parents finding better ways to pack lunches safely
  • Manufacturers developing ice packs and lunch bags that do a better job

What are Empty Calories?, a division of the Dept. of Agriculture offers the following information about foods we eat, and really enjoy, that really don’t give us the nutrients we need but do give us what are referred to as “empty calories.”

caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories –- calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:


Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator


September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Partnership for Food Safety Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration want consumers to know that some beliefs people have 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: