In an age of rapidly changing, yet almost algorithmic cancer prevention, research, and treatment protocols, compassion can be a powerful ally in a cancer patient’s fight against the disease.

According to Mother Teresa, “the fruit of love is service, which is compassion in action.” The Dalai Lama called compassion, “the radicalism of our time.” He added, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Early Detection, Mammograms, and Self-Exams

According to cancer.gov, breast cancer is one of the few cancers for which an effective screening test, mammography, is widely available. Ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and clinical breast exams are also used in this cancer’s detection but not as routinely as 3D mammography.

3D mammography can identify tumors up to two years before you or your doctor can feel them. When breast cancer is found early, there are more breast cancer treatment options and a greater chance of survival.

For women age 40 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer, an annual mammogram is suggested. But, this is only a general guideline. At the Leonard Cancer Institute, we offer advanced genetic testing that can better identify your risk for multiple types of breast cancers.

Even with today’s powerful diagnostic tools, self-exams play a crucial role in detecting breast cancer. Adult women are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. To learn more about self-exams, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Learn About Your Genetic Risk for Breast Cancer

Researchers estimate 5-10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with mutations in two genes, BRCA1 (Breast Cancer Gene One) and BRCA2 (Breast Cancer Gene Two), and genetic tests are available for these mutations.

Everyone is born with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. BRCA genes repair cell damage in the breasts, ovaries, and other cells. When the mutated genes are passed from generation to generation, the risk of breast and ovarian cancer increases. But, having these mutations doesn’t mean you will be diagnosed with breast cancer—most people who develop breast cancer do not have these mutations. Another well-known gene in breast cancer is the PALB2, which provides instruction to the BRCA2 on repairing damaged DNA and preventing cancer growth.

There is a list of 15+ other genetic mutations associated with breast cancer, but these are rare when compared to the BRCA genes. To learn more about breast cancer genetics, including what testing is available, visit cancer.org.

Healthy Lifestyle for Healthier Breasts

While some risks for breast cancer can’t be changed, such as family history or genetics, there are lifestyle changes that can lower your risk.

These changes include lowering your alcohol intake, quitting smoking, being physically active, breastfeeding if you have children, limiting the time and scope of hormone therapies, and avoiding exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.

Research is still being completed on diet and breast cancer, but following a Mediterranean diet— healthy fats, fish over meat, vegetables, olive oil—might help reduce your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight is also a vital factor in breast cancer prevention.

Take Action Before Cancer

There are many organizations that promote breast cancer awareness and hold events to raise funds for research and education.

By getting involved and knowing your risk you can help reduce the rates of breast cancer and increase survival rates. Great strides are being made, and these are happening because of the support of people like you.

If there’s anything we at the Leonard Cancer Institute can do to help you or your group with breast cancer prevention, awareness, and treatment, please visit us on social media or call the institute directly at (844) 959-HOPE.