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Barbara Jacoby

Breast Cancer Blog

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New Years Resolutions for Breast Health in 2014

Monday December 30, 2013

The advent of each New Year is a time for celebration and reflection. Secular in origin, it is one of the world's oldest traditions to which a majority of people adhere irrespective of race, creed, or nationality. On the eve of the New Year, we reflect upon missed opportunities to improve ourselves in the year past and we make promises unto ourselves to live better in the coming year. As you prepare your list of resolutions, consider adding these Top 10 Strategies to reduce breast cancer risk and improve your overall health in 2014.

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Breast Cancer during the Holidays: The Perfect Gift for a Cancer Patient

Friday December 27, 2013

The malls are abuzz with shoppers and sales...The roads are a mess with travelers heading to and fro...Work is a ghost town... The time of giving and receiving is upon us.... It's the HOLIDAY SEASON! Yet, for the cancer patient, there is little hiatus. Treatment drones on in its usual rhythm. What do you give to the cancer patient to show you truly care? The spirit of sharing brings loved ones together so, look here for some ideas to find the perfect gift that suits her needs.

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Angelina's Medical Choice: What message did it really convey?

Friday December 20, 2013

Angelina Jolie is once again on the front pages of newspapers regarding her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. The findings of a research study that examined the effect of her decision on public opinion were revealed yesterday, December 19th, by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The survey of more than 2,500 Americans found that 75% of respondents were aware of Jolie's story but, fewer than 10% could correctly answer questions about the BRCA gene mutation that Jolie harbors or estimate the typical woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

As explained by lead author, Dina Borzekowski, research professor in UMD's Department of Behavior and Community Health, "Ms. Jolie's health story was prominently featured throughout the media and was a chance to mobilize health communicators and educators to teach about the nuanced issues around genetic testing, risk, and prophylactic surgery,... [instead] it feels like it was a missed opportunity to educate the public about a complex but rare health situation."

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Winter Storm Turns Pink in San Antonio

Thursday December 19, 2013

As snow and ice gripped eastern and southern states - blanketing roads, stranding travelers, and bringing businesses to a screeching halt from Maine to Utah - there was a fearless bunch who could not be deterred. Not even a deadly winter storm could keep them down! Nearly 7,500 individuals did the unthinkable and ventured thousands of miles to attend the largest breast cancer conference in the world ... Read more

Time To Say Farewell

Saturday November 30, 2013
Pam and her Dad, crossing a bridge
Pam Stephan with her Dad
Photo Karl D. Stephan

Time is precious, and sometimes choosing how to spend your time is difficult. After spending the last seven and a half years working on this site, it's time for me to say farewell. It has been a great gift to me, to be able to spend time with you, my readers, and answer your questions as well as learn from you.

When I was hired for this site about breast cancer, I was a 4-year survivor with vivid memories of my experience with the disease, the treatments, and the recovery process. I had left a good job at a major university, working as a college webmaster. My body still needed time to recover and so did my spirit.

Soon thereafter, my mother passed away and my father, then 80 years old, could no longer live alone. Dad had developed some dementia and it had progressed to the point that his neurologist told him to stop driving. This was quite a blow to him. My sister had spent many years helping my parents during their senior years, while I lived across the country. But now she was raising a small child and needed to concentrate on her own family. My husband and I invited my Dad to live with us, and he has been with us now for 7 years.

Having Dad in my life has been another gift - even though it comes with challenges. We have focused on keeping him in good health, staying active, having a social life, and helping him remember things. As his memory issues progress, it gets harder to spend my time on any other activities. I want to make sure that he stays safe and contented as long as possible and keep him at home with family. So while I've been writing, researching, illustrating, editing, and taking photos for this site, I have juggled that with keeping Dad going. When he developed a heart problem, his memory suffered another drop, and my care for him intensified.

This is my last day with About.com and I will miss it dearly. Perhaps I may return someday, but for now, my course is set and Dad and I - with my husband's help - will cross this bridge into full-time dementia caregiving together. I will learn much about memory loss, and even more about my father, and I will treasure most of the memories that we make. Thanks for reading along with me and staying in touch over the years. Stay healthy and treasure those you love!

My blog about Life with Dad: Dementia and Dominoes

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Choose Anticancer Foods This Thanksgiving

Thursday November 21, 2013
Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner
Photo National Cancer Institute

Eat These, Not Those, To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Thanksgiving usually means an abundance of traditional dishes created with all the culinary stops pulled out - butter, eggs, sugars, spices, special drinks and appetizers. It's hard to turn down your favorite holiday munchies, especially if you get these only during the holidays. But all those dishes aren't healthy - I know, that's sort of the point isn't it? - so here's some tips to add more anticancer foods to the Big Meal.

Drink Juice or Tea, Not Alcohol: Alcohol intake should be limited or zero, to keep your risk of cancer low. Any kind of alcohol that you consume may change your levels of female hormones, and thus increase your risk of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. Get your antioxidants from tea or coffee, or vitamins from juice.

Snack on Fruit and Nuts, Not Cheese Dip: Steer away from extra fat to keep excess pounds off your frame. Staying slim keeps your cancer risk low, so grab the fruit, crackers, or walnuts at the appetizer table.

Take the Turkey, Not The Ham: Choose lean meats whenever possible and peel away the skin and fat. Avoid red and fatty meats but load up on omega3's in fish. You'll feel less bloated and get stuck with fewer calories after the big dinner this way!

Scoop up the Cranberries, Go Light on Sweet Potatoes: This isn't just about calories here - it's about powerful antioxidants that fight cancer as opposed to sugar-laden, high glycemic starchy potatoes. Yes, I know those golden brown 'taters are tempting, but the cranberries are the cancer-fighters on the table. You get double points if the cran sauce is homemade with natural sweeteners.

Hard Choices - Desserts: Pecan pie is a staple at my house, but I'm going to limit syrup and sugars this year. It sure ain't healthy, so take about 2-3 bites and keep going. Head for the fruit, chocolate, sponge cake, or lighter fare instead.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving holiday this year!

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Survivors Didn't Get Hung Up on Surgical Drains

Monday October 28, 2013
Surgical Drain Holders
Cool Chemo Top with Drain Holders
Photo Confident Clothing Co.

Smart Designs Deal With Surgical Drain Bulbs After Breast Cancer Surgery

There's nothing the experience to teach you something valuable. For breast cancer survivors, that's very true. No matter which surgery you may have endured, you most likely woke up sprouting catheter lines and surgical drain bulbs that dangled from your tender skin. Those drains are there for a good reason, but they aren't pretty and they sure aren't comfy!

When I was recovering 11 years ago, I was very uncomfortable. The little surgical stitch that held my drain lines in place pinched on a very sensitive spot. I kept the area clean and routinely measured my drain output but gosh! Getting dressed was a pain, lying down was difficult, sitting around felt like dealing with extra arms and legs. My husband tried once to help me adjust the position of the drain lines - he accidentally pulled on the line - and I left scratches on him when I clawed him with my nails. He backed off quickly, poor guy. Nobody gave me anything to help manage those drains and their pendulous catheter lines, except safety pins.

Now things are somewhat better. Several survivors have gone ahead of you and designed tops, belts, bras, scarves, and pockets that camouflage the bobbling bulbs and prevent them from shifting and falling. Check out these seven solutions to surgical drain management, and pack them in your hospital bag. These make recovery much more comfortable.

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Avoid Alcohol During Breast Cancer Awareness Month - And After!

Monday October 14, 2013
Pink Drink
Art Microsoft

And while we're talking about it, let me give you some good reasons to give up alcohol all year.

Alcohol causes the levels of female hormones in your body to rise. While that may sound wonderfully sexy, it also puts you at greater risk for breast cancer. Most breast tumors thrive on estrogen. Drinking any amount of alcohol, especially daily drinking, exposes your breast tissue to a greater risk for cancer.

If you are going to a "drink pink" event this BCAM, just order a healthy drink like pomegranate juice - without alcohol. If you're craving a little caffeine, ask for a cup of coffee or a green tea. And please don't hesitate to ask for alcohol-free wines and beers - such things do exist and a thoughtful host will have those on hand for such an event (surely!)

So, to lower your risk of breast cancer, keep your glass booze-free! And I don't mean putting down another glass of beer, wine, or liquor. We know alcohol can cause cancers of the liver, head and neck, esophagus and mouth, breast and bowel. So cut down on alcohol, or stop drinking it altogether, to lower your risk for all these cancers.

Need more info - here it is:

 

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Walk Down Your Risk For Breast Cancer

Tuesday October 8, 2013
pole walking
Pole Walking
Illustration Pam Stephan

Lace up your sneakers or pull on your boots and go for a walk. If you go for an hour's brisk walk every day, researchers say that your risk for developing breast cancer is 25% lower than the average lifetime risk.

A research study done with 73,615 postmenopausal women reveals that women who do at least 7 hours of exercise each week - this could be walking, gardening, jogging, house cleaning, or other recreational exercise - have a lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The research was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

You could mix up the routine with swimming, bike riding, dancing, running track, or lifting weights. Whatever you do, it should raise your metabolic rate well above the level it would be if you were watching television or trolling the internet. Sitting still does not burn calories very well. Lying around does not encourage your body to transform all the goodies you eat into energy. Women in this study who averaged more hours weekly of high metabolic rates were the ones with the lower risk of breast cancer. Body type and body mass index didn't seem to affect their risk - but their metabolic rate was critical.

Researchers followed the study participants from 1992 until 2009, taking data from questionnaires about their demographics, medical conditions, and environmental factors - as well as their exercise habits. They started with data from 73,615 women and found that 4,760 of them did eventually develop breast cancer. Doing regular exercise is not an iron-clad guarantee that you will never get sick, but it does have many health benefits.

"Current guidelines recommend that adults should strive to get at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for overall health. Higher levels of activity may provide greater benefit for breast cancer prevention," said Alpa Patel, a cancer epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society.

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29 Years of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday October 1, 2013
Pink Ribbon on the Horizon
Pink Ribbon Dawn
Photo Pam Stephan

Welcome to the very pinkest season of the year. This marks the 29th year we have had an official Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For many of us, we are well aware of the disease all year round, and for some of us, it never really goes away. But during October, in a few calm moments during the blitz of pink ribbons, we pay attention to the political, financial, and personal issues that accompany breast cancer.

Here are some basics: Anyone with breast tissue - be they guys or gals - are at risk for this cancer. That means that no matter who you are, you should learn what your personal risk is, and how to do your monthly self-screening. Even if your risk for developing breast cancer is low, make smart lifestyle choices and stick to them. Don't make a regular diet of junk and fast food - find an anticancer diet that works for you and learn how to enjoy it. Combine that with regular exercise and get down to a healthy weight.

Be Smart and Supportive: You will be inundated with pink trinkets all month - read the labels and don't buy anything that doesn't generate a donation to a bonafide breast cancer charity. A lot of pink items are just pink - if they don't raise funds to save lives, keep walking. Donate wisely - do some homework before you write that check - and join a fundraising walk or run only if it is associated with a legitimate agency. Best of all, check in with every survivor you know and keep offering your personal support.

What are your plans for this BCAM?

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