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Caregiver Self Care and Annual Breast Cancer Screenings

Written by Michele Houck
November 04, 2022
Caregiver Self Care and Annual Breast Cancer Screenings
Table of Contents

Bam. We said it. And in impressively large type.

Self-care can be a literal life-saver specific to your annual mammogram. Self care is advocating for yourself and your health with annual health screenings; specifically breast mammograms.

Do not put it off. In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness month, consider putting your mammogram on the top of your self-care to-do list.

Caregivers, you’re busy keeping track of other people’s doctor’s appointments, home help, bill payments, health, and needs — all on top of your responsibilities. And then there is you, beautiful you.

If you read no further, please see this message from Katie Couric, a very public caregiver. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and here is what she said.

It’s important for caregivers to care for their health when helping a loved one.”

The pandemic didn’t help caregivers prioritize their health. We all fell out of our pre-pandemic doctor or dentist routines, and then, the caregiving duties piled up. Even though you are a large and in-charge caregiver, you are a human with your own body and mind considerations.

Stop. As caregivers, we are typically “on” most of the time. Take a moment to breathe, focus, and reset your attention and intention for right now. Carve out time for exercise, healthy eating, and necessary routine medical screenings so you can be there for others.

As we at CircleOf say, take care of the caregivers because we are the center of the care-iverse. OK, it’s dorky, but it gets the point across.

Some breast cancer risk factors

Certain factors increase your risk for breast cancer, and others might lower it. We know that putting yourself first is not necessarily “natural” for a caregiver, so we are providing some information to help you understand and decide to advocate for YOU.

Here are well-documented and researched breast cancer risk factors every woman and man should stay on top of.

Family history

Michele, personal note: My entire side of my mother’s family has had breast cancer, and many have died. This is the reason I am so passionate about this topic.

Has your mom, sister, or daughter been diagnosed with breast cancer? If yes, the likelihood of you developing breast cancer is twice (2X) as high. If two close family members have breast cancer, the risk is five times (5X) higher. My family has “murder boobs,” as we affectionately call them. We have very dark humor about this, but it is no joke.

Age

The risk of breast cancer increases as you age: 77% of women are at least 51 years old when diagnosed, and less than 1% are in their 20s. But, if you are 35 – 50, even get a “baseline” mammogram. If you get breast cancer before menopause, that cancer is more likely to be fast-growing.

Race

While African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, Caucasians have a higher chance of developing the disease. Hispanic and Asian women are less likely than white and African-American women to get breast cancer.

Personal history

Women with cancer in one breast are much more likely to get cancer in the other. The chances are three (3X) to four (4X) times higher when compared to women who have never had breast cancer.

Other breast diseases

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with a breast disease like atypical hyperplasia or proliferative breast disease without atypia, you have a slightly higher risk of getting breast cancer. (Keep in mind: most other breast diseases don’t increase the chances of breast cancer.)

Menstrual history

Women who started menstruating before 12 years old have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Similarly, women who go through menopause after age 50 have a greater risk for breast cancer.

Birth control methods

Birth control pills can sometimes increase the risk of breast cancer, but more research is needed to understand this risk factor better.

Childbirth

Women who have their first child after age 30 (or who have never had children) have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.

Hormone replacement therapy

Prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. However, this risk returns to typical levels once a woman has been off HRT for five years.

Weight

Research shows that fat tissue produces estrogen. And since higher estrogen levels are correlated with breast cancer, overweight women — particularly those who have gone through menopause — have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Alcohol consumption

There is substantial research showing that women who consume two to five alcoholic drinks daily are one and half times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who don’t drink alcohol.

Mammogram truths and myths

In truth, a mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer early, and the risks associated with this x-ray are incredibly low. In the chance of a breast cancer diagnosis, women who get an annual mammogram have the best access to a wide array of treatments, early treatment, and a higher survival rate.

You may have heard the myth that mammograms can increase cancer risk or even spread breast cancer.

Why is that myth out there? Radiation creates imaging to highlight irregularities, but it isn’t much. Take it from the National Cancer Institute: a mammogram uses a minimal radiation dose; in almost all cases, the benefits are far greater than the risks. You can also wear a shield to decrease your radiation exposure.

Breast cancer screening

For women over age 39, an annual breast screening need to be part of your physical self-care maintenance routine. A mammogram can detect the earliest signs of breast cancer — even before a doctor can.

Still, have concerns? Have a conversation with your doctor to make the best decision for your health.

If you have financial concerns about the cost of a mammogram, note that the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) offers free or low-cost breast cancer screenings for women aged 40-65 who may be uninsured or have a low income.

Prioritize caregiver self-care

You are an excellent caregiver, you! We kiss you!

You may dedicate your primary headspace to other people’s health concerns, but let’s put you first for a bit. Schedule that yummy organic, healthy grocery delivery. Make time for a yoga class or a bike ride. Time out of caregiving mode with a great novel and a cup of tea. And please make sure you get your annual breast cancer screening.

Would you like extra organizing power in your busy caregiving schedule? Two words: mental clutter.

Organizing and planning are two sure ways to make sure YOU make it on the care schedule. Get the power of task wrangling, chore chaos, and to-do discipline with the CircleOf caregiver app.

CircleOf is a free tool that is directed to caregivers and designed to help you help others. Download the app to organize, collaborate, and connect with others by building a circle of care. Get the app today and get care started.

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