About 1 in 8 women will have invasive breast cancer some time during her life, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Although death rates are going down, the ACS estimates that nearly 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2012. I personally have four close friends that have been diagnosed with breast in the last ten years – these statistics are real.
Fortunately, by taking certain actions, many women can lower their risks of getting breast cancer and increase their chances for survival if they do have the disease. More importantly, all of us can help them – even it’s just by reminding them of the importance of having regular cancer screenings.
Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time for small business owners to show your employees you care about their health and the health of their families. Here are some things every woman should know and ideas on how you can contribute to their good health. This could make a big difference in someone’s life.
Raise awareness about breast cancer risks
Although men get the disease, it is about 100 times more common in women. Age is another risk factor — about 2 of 3 women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when the cancer is found. They also should be aware that more than 85% of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.
We can’t do anything about our gender, age or genetic heritage. But every woman can and should do something about lifestyle choices that increase the risk of getting breast cancer. These include:
Alcohol. Women who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol.
Being overweight or obese. Women who gained weight as adults are at a higher risk, especially if the extra weight is around their waists.
Lack of exercise. Women who exercise 4 to 7 hours per week are at a lower risk for breast cancer. Even moderate exercise, like walking, can lower the risk.
Encourage mammograms and breast self-exams
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women 40 and older have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years and provides this useful fact sheet. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider.
Host presentations and/or educational workshops by breast cancer expert speakers and survivors
Contact your local health care facility or breast cancer organization to set up a memorable event. The ACS website can help you find support and treatment resources in your local area.
Post or distribute educational materials and videos
You can find these on ACS and Cancer Care. The ACS web site also has a section with interactive tools, quizzes, and videos where women can learn more about ways to lower their risk for cancer and understand early detection.
Support local fundraising walks
The American Cancer Society, for example, has a number of “Making Strides” walks in Michigan that you can participate in by walking or sponsoring a walker.
Promote exercising and healthy living
One study found that as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2½ hours of brisk walking per week reduced the risk of breast cancer by 18%. The ACS recommends maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and making healthy food choices with a focus on plant-based foods. That’s good advice for all employees, since one-third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. each year are linked to diet and physical activity.