Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadian women, can sometimes be averted by preventative measures and habits young women take on today. October is the official month of Breast Cancer Prevention and Awareness.
According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, smoking, excessive drinking, a lack of exercise and an unhealthy body weight are all risks that increase the possibility of breast cancer.
“Starting early is important,” said Humber’s nurse coordinator Catherine McKee. “Better now than 40 years down the road with excess weight.”
Caterina Mazzateno, a second year Early Childhood Education student, admits she is a smoker and occasionally drinks alcohol above the national recommended serving of two drinks a day and maximum of 10 drinks a week.
“It’s hard to quit smoke,” said Mazzateno, 20. “I used to drink a lot more (water) which I need to start doing.”
The foundation says smoking has a relative risk factor of 1.3, which means the risk of breast cancer for a smoker is 30 per cent more than a non-smoker.
And leading a healthier lifestyle goes beyond not smoking. A nutritious diet and daily physical activity are crucial to maintaining a healthy body weight, but many young people find it difficult to achieve these
“With everything that’s going on, it’s kind of hard to manage everything,” said 20-year-old second-year Early Childhood Education student Maria Futia. “Making sure you’re eating so good and exercising on a daily basis…with school is stressful.”
Research done by the Canadian Cancer Society reveals one in nine women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life by the age of 90.
Vanessa Gutta is a first-year Early Childhood Education student whose aunt was among the one of nine.
“Just after the holidays she gave my mom a call. She said that something wasn’t normal in that area… (The doctors) found a couple of lumps,” said Gutta, 18.
“She got tested and they said that she had breast cancer in just her left breast,” she said.
Gutta’s aunt “had to get her full breast removed… Now she’s doing really well in recovery… She goes to chemo(therapy) once in a while, but for right now it’s going good,” said Gutta.
Gutta’s aunt is an example of early detection, but what Gutta did not know was that her aunt’s diagnosis could potentially mean something significant to her own health.
Dr. David Warr, medical oncologist at the Princess Margret Cancer Centre, explained the importance of knowing family medical history.
“Patients with a family history of early-onset breast cancer or cancer of the ovary (are) known as BrCa gene carriers – ‘braca’,” Warr said. “These women tend to develop breast cancer under age 50, occasionally as early as in their 20’s with multiple affected relatives.”
Carriers of the ‘braca’ gene have between 40 and 85 per cent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation says.
Though regular self-examination is no longer recommended by the Cancer Society “we don’t advise ignoring lumps that are found during showering or looking in the mirror,” Warr said.