HEALTH

Breast Cancer: A personal account of cancer

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However, not all women who have a history of breast cancer in their family will test positive in the BRCA test.

Luma Khalaf, top left, poses in a 2006 family photo. The author of this piece, Yasmeen Alamiri, is standing to her right. Luma battled breast cancer for 7 years before passing away.

There are several risk factors associated with breast cancer: 
• Earlier age at first period (before the age of 12)
• Having your first child after the age of 30
• Minimal or no breastfeeding after giving birth
• Going through menopause at a later age
• The use of hormonal replacements post-menopause
• Alcohol consumption (consuming alcohol more than 3-4 times a week)
• Being overweight, not exercising
• Gender (breast cancer happens 100 times more often in women than in men)
• Race (it is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than women of other races)
• Dense breast tissue 

While several cannot be avoided, there are key lifestyle changes that can be addressed that can lower your risk of developing the disease: 

• Get at least six hours of sleep a night (research shows less leads to low-grade inflammation, and inflammation can lead to cancer)
• Keep in consultation with your doctor about the need for mammograms and early screening
• Limit your alcohol intake to 3-4 times a week
• Engage in moderate exercise (the equivalent of 3 hours of brisk walking a week, at minimum)
• Maintaining a normal body weight
• Breast feeding after giving birth
• Exercise caution and discretion with CT scans

Of course, there is also strong medical  backing behind several medical interventions for those that have been proven to be at high-risk for breast cancer. There has been strong evidence behind drugs Tamoxifen or Raloxifene for breast cancer risk reduction for women determined to be at high risk, Dr. Isaacs said.

It is hard not to have my family history of breast cancer linger in the back of my mind. I think those concerns will always be there. But we can take all the precautionary measures possible to stay healthy and lessen our risk. Research and treatments are advancing rapidly and are a source of so much hope.

Living life in fear of what may come is no way to live at all. I’d be remiss if I didn’t live my life to the fullest—if nothing else, in memory of my loving mother and all those that were lost to this disease too soon.

Yasmeen Alamiri is a senior web editor at ABC7.

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