2. Practice good habits – Women at elevated risk should be practicing the health and cleaning habits recommended by agencies like the CDC. Remember to wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds, don’t touch your face, and try to stay home as much as possible. Practicing good social distancing (6 feet!) will help keep you and others safe.
3. Double check your plan – You may have upcoming screenings and surgeries to help you manage and reduce your cancer risk. As health systems prepare to deal with COVID-19 cases, many are choosing to cancel, delay, or move appointments online. If you haven’t already, call your provider to make the best plan for moving forward.
4. Take advantage of online/virtual medical resources – Some appointments, including ones with genetic counselors, can be moved online or over the phone. If you are hoping to set up an appointment with a genetic counselor, consider scheduling a virtual one with an agency like InformedDNA, Grey Genetics, Genome Medical, and others. For appointments with your provider, check in with your health provider and your insurance to see what options are available for you.
6. Call your grandparents, family, friends, and anyone feeling lonely – There are a lot of people who would love hearing from you. Consider picking up the phone to call your grandma (you can ask her more about your family health history, if you haven’t already) or Skype your nieces and nephews. Want to do even more good? Sign up to become a remote peer mentor for other women at elevated risk through Imerman Angels.
7. Keep living that #prevention life – Staying home does not mean you can’t keep up your healthy lifestyle. Get moving by checking out a home workout or going for a walk outside (if you can safely). Cook yourself a healthy meal at home. Try cooking a healthy new recipe at home. Remember to check in with your body regularly – we can help!
As always, Bright Pink is here for you. Please keep in touch with us and reach out for additional resources if you need them. Sending you Bright Pink love!
We have all been impacted this month by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have seen our lives turned upside down – figuring out the new normal of working from home or not working at all, needing to take over our children’s schooling, limiting our in-person social contacts, having to think carefully about how we will get our basic needs met while minimizing potential exposure, and wondering how long this will go on and what the future will look like. These realities can be unfamiliar and unsettling, and tend to take over our thinking.
At Bright Pink, we want to share how we are approaching our work right now based on our core values:
In the face of diseases that can seem inevitable, we can reduce our risk by being proactive. How do we keep our cancer risk low while also focusing on COVID-19? Look for messages from us soon on ways you can be proactive to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and how they can fit into the latest recommendations for social distancing.
Whether it is helping to encourage you to feel your best, providing the support you need as you walk through your health journey, or giving you life-saving tools to help you know your risk and proactively advocate for your health, we are committed to our mission: to save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and by driving women at elevated risk to take action.
When we learn about the past, we gather strength for the future. -Hank Smith
Depending on your family dynamic, it can be difficult to feel comfortable bringing up the dreaded “c” word. It’s the word countless generations have danced around in hopes of not jinxing anyone. Some elders have deemed it, “grown folk’s business.” We seem to fear using the word “cancer” as much as the characters in Harry Potter fear using Lord Voldemort’s name. Yet, we need to talk about cancer- our future literally depends on it since our family’s health journey can be a roadmap for our own future health. We recently spoke to Counselor, Simone Banks, M. Ed, LCMHCA, about how to create a healthy family narrative and navigating the tricky family health history conversation.
Create a family health plan that includes telling the truth.
Being honest about your health history only gives future generations the best chance at having whole, happy and healthy lives. Only you can control how you wish to discuss and record your health history with your family. Although it can be emotionally hard, the silver lining is that YOU can be the one to break the generational curse of not sharing.
Homework: Practice what you might say to a family member. Perhaps you found they’ve been in the hospital and didn’t tell anyone about their stay. “I hope you’re recovering well and I also hope in the future you can keep us updated on your health journey,” or “we love you and we want to be aware of the full picture of your health”.
“Knowledge is love, light, and vision.” -Helen Keller
Being honest with family members about your health history and them honestly sharing theirs is a sign that you both want a whole, aware, and empowered family. You may have to have uncomfortable conversations and ask some tough questions. To ease this stress, always focus the conversation on how it will help future generations.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” -Kofi Annan
Once you collect your family’s health history, you will know how to advocate and empower yourself moving forward. Finding out the truth can be overwhelming at times (trust me) and it is important to have a coping/ support plan if needed.
Homework: Use your family health history as a guide to revise your current health plan (or use it as inspiration to create one if you haven’t) with your healthcare provider. Plan all of your health appointments for the year: primary care, gynecologist, dentist, dermatologist, etc.
“A happy outside comes from a happy inside.” -Henry Urich
There’s power in knowing our own mental health journey as well as getting a clearer picture of your family members’ journeys. It’s common during intake assessments for mental health professionals to ask about your family history with mental health as well as yours. Staying informed and empowered about your family’s mental health journey can help you better understand if you could be susceptible to various mental disorders linked to genetics like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or panic disorder.
Homework: Talk to your family about mental health; particularly, how is their mental health and what would they like to work on in the next year.
We all know that regular exercise is a great way to take care of your body and promote a healthy lifestyle, but how exactly does this translate to a lower risk of diseases like cancer? We asked Medical Advisory Committee member Elizabeth Hibler, PhD, MPH to weigh in. Check out some great tips from Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC) trainer Austin too!
How does physical activity impact breast and ovarian cancer risk?
First, let’s clarify what “physical activity” means. Physical activity includes all physical movement you make throughout the day. Often we think of physical activity as the “exercise” we get (eg that morning workout or evening spin class). “Exercise” is intentional, planned physical activity.
Many studies have shown that being physically active is connected with having a lower risk of cancer – as well as a lower risk of heart disease! How does physical activity decrease your risk? We aren’t entirely sure. We know that staying active affects our body composition, or the measure of fat, muscle, water, and bone in our bodies. Our goal is to be lean- meaning low body fat percentage and higher lean muscle percentage, without being underweight.
When you maintain a healthy weight with a greater amount of muscle you limit the amount of fat you carry in your body. Having more fat can expose you to more estrogen, a hormone that can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. We should be striving to avoid extra weight throughout our lives to reduce this exposure. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight and improving your body composition can have health benefits.
Beyond keeping your weight in check, does physical activity have an impact on risk?
Besides its positive influence on maintaining a healthy body composition, it appears that physical activity helps reduce cancer risk through several biological mechanisms in the body. Studies suggest that being more physically active can decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve immune function in addition to altering exposure to sex hormones (such as estrogen).
However, understanding how physical activity impacts health in terms of biology gets very complicated, very quickly. We are learning more every day, but overall the evidence supports that physical activity is crucial to health through a variety of biological mechanisms.
To measure intensity we look at how much energy is needed to complete an activity – in other words how many calories we burn as we move. To best estimate your calorie burn, you should monitor your heart rate throughout your activity. However, you can also estimate your calorie burn by noticing how you feel throughout your activity.
Moderate-intensity activities include those that will increase your heart rate (also improving your cardiorespiratory fitness!). You’ll breathe faster, but still be able to have a conversation. Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise include:
brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour)
biking slower than 10 miles per hour
lifting weights (depending on your effort this can also be vigorous-intensity)
If you’re interested in sweating more, you may want to consider adding vigorous-intensity activities to your routine. HHS notes that you can also complete 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activities each week to meet your activity goal. Vigorous-intensity activities increase heart rate even higher than moderate-intensity and make it more challenging to talk without losing your breath. Some examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include:
hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
cycling 10 miles per hour or faster
Although the guidelines focus on moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity, even light-intensity activities (such as walking a dog or hatha yoga/stretching), can have health benefits – especially for older adults.
TrainerAustin’s Tip: Looking for a way to *really* get moving? Check out Team Bright Pink! You can lower your risk for breast and ovarian cancer and help other women lower their risk by running with Bright Pink!
Are there any specific recommendations for women who are at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer?
There are no specific physical activity recommendations for women who have an elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. However, they may want to pay special attention to fitting in their minutes of physical activity to keep themselves as healthy as possible as they continue with other risk reducing measures.
Does the type of exercise affect your risk-reduction? Do we know?
The bottom line is that adding any kind of physical activity above your daily activities is beneficial. Most of the health information we have focuses on activities that get you moving and mainly serve to increase your heart rate. We call these “aerobic” activities – often people call them “cardio”. However, it’s important to mix both aerobic activity and strength training in your routine.
Strength training includes bodyweight, free weight, machine, and other resistance training to make your muscles work. Common examples of strength training exercises include squats, push-ups, and curls.
According to the American Heart Association, two or three 20- or 30-minute strength training sessions every week can result in significant health benefits. It can increase muscle mass, helping slow or even reverse the trend of our muscle mass naturally decreasing as we age. Having a fair amount of muscle mass keeps your body lean and makes it better at burning calories. When your body is better at burning calories, it helps reduce the amount of fat you carry.
Strength training also builds stronger bones by increasing bone density. That protects you from breaking or fracturing your bones – which is especially important for women as we age (you’ve heard of osteoporosis). In addition, muscle-building exercises help with joint flexibility and balance, which can help us in the long-term to reduce symptoms of arthritis and prevent injuries from falls.
TrainerAustin’s Tip: Make an action plan for your training. As a runner, some of my favorite strength exercises to build muscle (and prevent injury) include squats, deadlifts, planks, lunges, and calf raises. If you can’t get to the gym, no problem – most strength workouts can be done at home.
Where is the research going next?
As I mentioned before, researchers still aren’t quite sure how physical activity protects the body against cancer. There is currently a lot of exciting, ongoing research to understand more about the biological mechanisms of physical activity in reducing cancer risk. Some questions researchers like me are trying to answer about physical activity include:
Is the same intensity and type of activity good for everyone?
Can we get to the point where we can identify and prescribe vigorous- intensity for some people and moderate-intensity for others, based on their biology?
Anything else women should keep in mind when they exercise to reduce risk?
First and foremost, be safe. Consult your doctor before you start any exercise program. If you are just getting started with some physical activity, it’s a good idea to take things slow and ease yourself into more intense activity. Regardless of your level of activity, you should pay attention to correct form and avoid overextending yourself. Overuse injuries can make it more difficult to stay active in the future!
Also, as research is ongoing, remember that guidelines may change over time. Overall it’s very unlikely that Human Health Services will ever tell you that exercise is bad for you…We know it’s good for us! We’re just trying to learn more about the how and why. So, go walk the dog – or join a marathon team!
TrainerAustin’s Tip: Remember to TAKE YOUR RECOVERY DAYS to stay safe and prevent injury. This is something I personally struggle with, but having days to recover is not only great for your body but for your mind as well.
This month at Bright Pink we are focusing on Sheroes—women admired for their courage, achievements, and qualities (superwomen). You might be wondering what exercise has to do with being a Shero? Other than the obvious – that Wonder Woman had an incredible, strong body! Sheroes have to work to take care of their bodies, but you don’t have to become a gym junkie to be sure your body stays strong and healthy.
When it comes to exercise, self care starts with looking after your body every day. And small daily habits make more impact long term than a short-lived resolution to do something dramatic. The best way to keep your body fit is to make choices daily that will get you moving more. So simple things, like choosing to walk instead of driving. Taking stairs instead of the elevator. Choosing the farthest parking space from the door instead of circling to find a closer spot. All those little habits add up into a more active lifestyle, which is the most important thing for your long-term health.
Now I’m not saying that an exercise routine isn’t important as well! In fact, Health and Human Services recommends all women get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, preferably spread throughout the week. That averages out to 22 minutes per day. And moderate intensity can be as simple as a brisk walk. Again, make it something that can fit into your everyday routine so that it will stick over the long haul.
Now to get a little more specific for women at high risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer reading this blog – I’m one of you! Exercise is a really important component of our risk reduction plan. We know that exercise reduces the risk of getting breast cancer. If you have your ovaries removed before menopause to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, the bad news is that you are at higher risk for osteoporosis and heart disease because of the extra years you will spend in menopause. Since we know that exercise both improves your bone health and lowers your risk of heart disease, it’s even more important to integrate movement into your life as a higher risk woman. So let’s get moving together this month! I’m planning to take the stairs whenever I can…
Did you know genes are the bits of DNA that give our cells their marching orders? (Think Beyoncé getting us all in formation.) They make up who we are at our most basic cellular level. And the billions of cells we’re born with play an incredibly important role in our health.
When it comes to our bodies, genes run the show, telling our cells how to create the various proteins that keep us going. It’s a huge job, one that requires all our 20,000 to 25,000 genes working in harmony to give our bodies the orders that help keep us healthy.
We inherit each of our genes directly from our parents – two copies of every gene, one passed on from each of our parents. Most genes are exactly the same from person to person, but a small fraction – less than 1 percent of those thousands of genes – have slight differences. It might not sound like much, but it’s those small DNA differences that give each of us (unless you’re an identical twin like Tia and Tamera) our unique set of physical features. She get it from her mama and her dad.
Understanding Genetics is Important…
When your family history indicates a pattern
A family history of cancer may mean there’s an underlying genetic cause. Once you understand how genes and mutations work, you’re better equipped to work through your family history—and better equipped for conversations with your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor.
When you’re curious or you want to fill in the gaps
A complete family history means collecting three generations of health history– yours, your parents’, and your grandparents’. And sis, we get it- trust us. Though it may not always be possible, understanding your own genetic makeup can help you—and your healthcare provider—work backward to fill in the gaps. And even if you’re simply curious about your own health, understanding the basics of genetics is a proactive way to get a better overall view.
You wash your hands to prevent the flu and stretch your muscles when you workout to prevent injury. Why not take steps to prevent cancer too?
February may be National Cancer Prevention month, but every month is about cancer prevention (and early detection!) here at Bright Pink.
We teamed up with all-star OB/GYN and blogger Dr. Wendy McDonald, akaDr. Every Woman, to break down what early detection and self-awareness mean and how you can use these strategies to prevent cancer. You can also watch her Facebook Live on cancer prevention!
How can early detection protect us from breast cancer?
Dr. Wendy: First, we need to review what early detection means.
Stage 0 and Stage 1:
Both Stage 0 and Stage 1 breast cancer have over a 99% 5-year survival rate. That means that in the 5 years after diagnosis, 99% of people will still be alive.
Now, in Stage 2, breast cancer has either spread to the lymph nodes or is significantly larger. The 5-year survival rate for Stage 2 is 93%.
In Stage 3, the cancer is even larger or has spread to many lymph nodes. Now the 5-year survival rate has dropped to around 85%.
So many people don’t want to find out that they have cancer because they think that it’s a death sentence. Instead, they should think of early breast cancer detection as a new lease on life, an opportunity to beat cancer because it was caught early. That should be a thing.
What are some tools to better prepare for early detection & cancer prevention?
Breast density refers to the amount of fibroglandular tissue present in the breast. Fibroglandular tissue appears as white on the mammogram, making it difficult to visually detect breast cancers. The increased density is noted even when other demographic factors like age, weight, and pregnancy history are factored in.
Increased breast density can absolutely make finding breast cancer harder. A breast cancer will also light up as white on traditional mammography, which can be hidden behind fibroglandular tissue. I often send my patients with dense breasts to have a 3-D mammogram and an ultrasound if needed. That different type of imaging, used in combination with mammography, can detect a higher number of abnormalities than traditional mammography alone.
It’s the season for love, and Bright Pink wants you to show some to your heart. Every woman is at risk for breast and ovarian cancer, but more women will die from heart and cardiovascular problems than either of these cancers.
That’s why we’re “going red” this month: we want to help you take the best care of your heart – which can also help you reduce your breast and ovarian cancer risk, by the way! Our own Dr. Lindner sat down with expert Dr. Rupa Sanghani, a cardiovascular expert and associate director of Rush University’s Rush Heart Center for Women, to get all the details.
Why do women need to focus on heart health?
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the number one killer of women in this country. It includes a lot of different problems with your heart and the way it pumps blood through your body, such as a heart attack, stroke, or hypertension. Although many people picture heart disease as a problem that mainly affects men and older individuals, I want you to know that one in three women will get this disease and one in four women die from this disease. This is a disease that shouldn’t be underestimated in women.
How does that compare to most women’s breast and ovarian cancer risk?
To compare, the average woman has about a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer and a 1 in 38 chance of dying from breast cancer.Her chances of getting ovarian cancer are even lower, about 1 in 78, with a 1 in 108 chance of dying from ovarian cancer. Heart disease is more common and more deadly because more people survive breast cancer, thanks to improvements in treatment, and because very few women develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime.
What about women who have a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer?
Even for women who have a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, such as women with a BRCA mutation, the numbers are different. If women with BRCA mutations don’t remove their ovaries, they actually have a higher risk of dying from ovarian cancer than from heart disease or breast cancer.
That’s why it’s especially important for women at high risk undergo preventive oophorectomy, or surgery to remove the ovaries. However, this operation puts women into early menopause. We know that the risk of heart disease increases for women after they experience menopause, so any woman undergoing this type of operation needs to talk to her health provider and make an appointment with a heart health provider, or cardiologist, to discuss these risks and how to manage them. Women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer should see a provider well-versed in risk factors and heart disease. I really recommend finding a provider who specializes in women’s heart health.
Again, the research showing an increased heart disease risk with preventive ovarian surgery does not mean that high risk women should skip these surgeries. You should just make sure you are talking with your health providers about the risk.
How can all women protect themselves from developing heart disease?
Half the battle is to know what you are up against. You should see what your personal risk factors are for heart disease. Heart disease and breast and ovarian cancer actually share many important risk factors.
Just as it is important to collect your family health history of cancer, you should know about your family members’ heart health history, as factors like genetics can also play a role in heart disease. Additionally, you should keep track of those numbers and notes they take in the doctor’s office:
any complications that you developed during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
What kind of action can I take to reduce my risk of heart disease?
It’s really important to keep your weight down to a healthy level, I cannot emphasize that enough. When it comes to diet, I really try to keep things simple. My general advice is “eat food.” That means eating food in its naturally occurring form. If it comes in a wrapper, or if it’s not in its natural form, it’s probably not as good for you. I’m a big believer in moderation, but 80-90% of the time that is what your plate should be.
Exercise is also really important. Everyone is busy these days, so just move your body in any way shape or form that you can. Maybe you can’t go on a 7 mile-run, what you can do is climb up the stairs. Every bit that you can move your body counts toward exercise.
Another big thing is not smoking, especially for ladies. Smoking seems to have a more harmful effect in women than in men. You should also see a health provider regularly.
How can my health provider help me?
Coming to see a health provider is essential to reduce the risk of heart disease – especially for women with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as I mentioned above. As a cardiologist, I have female patients who come in and say, “I feel a little foolish for making this appointment.” Don’t feel silly, it’s important that you are taking steps for your health!
If you have no family history of heart disease, and you haven’t reached menopause (early or naturally) in any form, you can wait till your 40s to make this kind of appointment, but there is no one-size-fits-all process for keeping track of your heart health. When you come to the appointment, know your risk factors, including any pregnancy history and family health history.
Your provider can run tests to see what your heart health looks like. They can sometimes find signs that disease is starting to spread long before you have any symptoms. We always want to diagnose this early on – diagnose it or prevent it from the beginning. By partnering with a provider who understands women’s heart health you can set yourself on a path to prevention. Please advocate for yourself!
My cousin is dying from breast cancer. The cancer has metastasized like a personal wildfire throughout her body leaving her a shell of her vibrant, youthful self. She’s not the first person to ever have their body betray them in such a horrific way, nor is she the first in my family. My great grandmother and aunts have all had the Scarlet B emblazoned on their chest as if some sort of twisted right of passage.
I remember sharing my family health history with my doctor. I was in for a routine check-up but was curious about genetic testing. After hearing about Angelina Jolie and a close friend undergoing testing, I thought it might be a practical choice for me. He scoffed and told me, “don’t worry, you’re much too young. Plus, it’s so expensive to undergo genetic testing.”
He dismissed my fears as if I had come in complaining about a paper cut. But I, a 25-year-old woman at the time, was concerned and terrified that I was next. That I was stuck in a game of Russian Roulette without ever opting in to play. Because he was a doctor, a person with much more medical knowledge than me, I accepted his words like so many of us do, and continued on about my life.
Health disparities between Black and white women in the US have existed for what feels like forever; however, they were first recognized 30 years ago. Today, even though we- Black women- are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, we are still much more likely to die from the disease than our white counterparts. Did you know that Black women are 42% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women? That’s a significant increase compared to 1990 when we women were 17% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.1
Why such a big difference? Overall, Black and white women develop breast cancer at similar rates, however, we tend to face much harder diagnoses. For one, we are more likely to develop breast cancer before the age of 40. Not to mention we also have higher rates of triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive types of the disease.
Beyond our biological risk factors, we may face multiple barriers in accessing prevention and early detection services plus we also have lower screening rates when compared to white women, causing doctors to detect our cancers at a later, more aggressive and life-threatening stage. It’s… a lot.
“I’m convinced that we Black women possess a special indestructible strength that allows us to not only get down, but to get up, to get through, and to get over.” – Janet Jackson
As a Black woman, I’m constantly second-guessed, dismissed, and outright ignored by society. However, where you’d hope I’d be the most heard, the most visible, the most believed would be at my doctor’s office; but that’s where my invisibility cape is most active. I wish the culprit was a personality flaw, but it’s a serious issue with a deadly domino effect. Our healthcare system fails to provide all women- especially Black women- with the adequate medical care we demand and deserve. We are notoriously left out of the national women’s health conversation and deserve more personalized content to drive behavior change and start to change these odds.
The good news is that there are resources like Bright Pink. That’s why in 2018, I chose to work for this organization- an organization I truly believe has and will continue to make a difference in helping to empower women to live their best lives. Reeling with confusion about my own future, and not being able to find resources dedicated to my specific risk factors (i.e. being Black), I began thinking about how those resources would look and feel. That was the genesis for Hey Sis– an effort to amplify and highlight the unique risk factors and barriers that we- Black women- face when dealing with our breast and ovarian cancer risk.
Bright Pink believes that knowledge is power; that risk awareness can be the catalyst for women to access more frequent screening, pursue genetic testing, and access treatments not routinely recommended to the general population. These actions can greatly improve all women’s chances of preventing cancer and detecting it in its most treatable stage. Because everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthier life, no matter who they are.
And sis, that includes you too. So shine on sis, shine on.
Hey Sis highlights the risks Black women face specifically by featuring personal breast and ovarian health experiences from Black women, personalized health recommendations for the Black community, progress being made to address these barriers, and more. Join us, follow along, and share with the women in your life; from your mama, sisters, cousins, and even your brunch squad- spread the word about Hey Sis. We’re stronger when we all work together in pursuit of the bright future every woman deserves.
In 2019, more than 300,000 women received a breast cancer diagnosis. About 50,000 of these women learned that they had the earliest form of breast cancer, Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, DCIS for short. DCIS affects women of every age, but it can be confusing to understand and treat. Bright Pink called in expert Dr. Swati Kulkarni to tell us more about this type of breast cancer, from prevention, to diagnosis to treatment. You can also check out her Facebook Live conversation here.
What is DCIS* -Do I have cancer?
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is made up of abnormal cells that are enclosed in the milk ducts of the breast. DCIS cells grow faster than normal cells, but they lack one of the key hallmarks of cancer- the ability to invade other tissues.
Over time, however, DCIS can turn into invasive cancer, leaving the milk ducts and spreading to other tissues. That is why it is important to treat DCIS – to prevent a future case of invasive breast cancer.
What are the risk factors for DCIS? How can I reduce my risk?
In general, women with DCIS do not have any symptoms. Providers typically discover DCIS through a screening mammogram, which can detect microcalcifications in the breast. These calcium deposits are only visible on mammography, and this imaging can provide an estimate for how much of the breast contains DCIS. An MRI can sometimes help to determine the extent of DCIS, but it can also overestimate the amount DCIS leading to more extensive surgery.
After finding microcalcifications, health providers will confirm that DCIS is present. The best way to confirm a diagnosis of DCIS is by performing a mammogram guided core needle biopsy. The provider will remove several small pieces of tissue from the breast and analyze them under a microscope to detect abnormal cells.
If DCIS is present, a pathologist will typically categorize the DCIS into Low (grade 1), Intermediate (grade 2) or High grade (grade 3) based on how fast the cells are growing and on their appearance. They will also measure two proteins, the estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor. This information can be useful in guiding treatment.
I was just diagnosed with DCIS. What do I do now?
Learning you have DCIS can seem overwhelming, but don’t panic. DCIS is not life-threatening and not an emergency. If you have this diagnosis, the first important step is to make an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in breast surgery to learn about your options for treatment.
The main reason to treat DCIS is to prevent it from coming back or becoming invasive breast cancer. If we leave DCIS alone, up to half of patients will develop invasive breast cancer.
We don’t know for sure which patients will develop invasive breast cancer or when. To be absolutely safe, we recommend removing the DCIS surgically with some normal breast tissue around it. This type of procedure is called a lumpectomy, wide local excision, or partial mastectomy.
The extent of surgery recommended by your surgeon depends on the amount of DCIS present and the location of the DCIS in your breast. More surgery is not necessarily better and should be weighed against the risk of surgical complications and long-term side effects. Have an open and clear conversation with your breast surgeon about your diagnosis and any potential side-effects or complications from the surgery to decide on a plan that’s right for you.
How soon do I need to have surgery?
You do not need to have surgery immediately. Again, DCIS is not an emergency. DCIS is pre-invasive and cannot spread. We think that only about 50% of DCIS cases will become invasive and the abnormal cells and surrounding tissues have to undergo many changes over time to become invasive. For most patients, this series of changes takes many months or years. It is safe to weigh different treatment options and consider a second opinion.
Do I need to have radiation after my surgery?
Breast radiation after surgery can reduce the risk of DCIS coming back by 50%. It is important to meet with a radiation oncologist to discuss the risks and benefits of radiation treatments. Newer tests are becoming available that may help physicians and patients tailor radiation therapy based on molecular characteristics of the tumor.
Why is my doctor recommending Tamoxifen?
Taking a medication such as Tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor, which work to slow the growth of abnormal cells, can reduce of the DCIS coming back by 30%. An added benefit is that the medication can also prevent a new breast cancer on the other breast.
What are the chances of DCIS coming back? What kind of follow-up do I need?
The chance of DCIS coming back depends on a number of factors. Your age, whether you used radiation or a medication like Tamoxifen, and whether your provider removed the DCIS with enough normal tissue around it can all affect your chances of having the DCIS return. DCIS can come back many years later as DCIS or invasive cancer. You should continue to get screening mammograms every year to make sure you are still cancer-free.
What are we learning about DCIS and how to treat it?
We are learning that treatment for DCIS is not “one size fits all.” Some women may need no treatment. There are large clinical trials going on in Europe, Asia, and the United States that are trying to answer the question of whether some women can undergo active surveillance with breast imaging and completely avoid surgery for DCIS.
There are also trials to determine if medications alone can be used to treat DCIS. The best way to figure this out is for women with a new diagnosis of DCIS to consider participating in a clinical trial in the period of time before they undergo surgery. These trials are called Window of Opportunity Trials and are typically 2-6 weeks long. It is safe to participate in these trials. Delaying your surgery for a short time will have no impact on your outcome. The results of these studies may allow some women to avoid surgery in the future.
Did you know that up to 25% of breast and ovarian cancers are familial or hereditary? Knowing your family’s health history can be a powerful roadmap for you and your healthcare provider to better understand and manage your breast and ovarian cancer risk proactively.
Since the holiday season is quickly approaching, it’s a great time to begin talking with your relatives- on both parents’ sides if possible- about who had cancer of any kind, which types, and how old they were when diagnosed. While breast and ovarian cancer history are important, other types of cancer can also be indicators- so capture everything you can using our Family Health History form. Then, you’ll be all set to Assess Your Risk, using our tool.
We know this is not always easy. This is why we’ve designed a helpful discussion guide to support you as you seek to learn as much as you can about your family’s health history.
Family History: What to Look Out For
You may be at higher risk if you are a woman with a family history of:
A close relative with a known genetic mutation associated with an increased or high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer risk:
MSH2, MLH1, EPCAM (Lynch Syndrome)
PMS2, MSH6 (Lynch Syndrome)
PMS2, MSH6 (Lynch Syndrome)
TP53 (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome)
PTEN (Cowden Syndrome)
CDH1 (Hereditary Diffuse Gastric and Lobular Breast Cancer Syndrome)
STK11 (Peutz- Jeghers Syndrome)
Women with a BRCA mutation face up to an 87% lifetime risk for breast cancer and up to a 54% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer- much higher than the general population.
2. Breast cancer diagnosed at age 45 or under 3. Triple-negative (ER-, PR-, HER2-) breast cancer diagnosed at age 60 or under 4. Male breast cancer 5. More than one breast cancer in one relative (cancer in both breasts, or two separate breast cancers in one breast) 6. Two or more relatives with breast cancer, with at least one of the diagnoses at age 50 or under 7. Ovarian cancer, primary peritoneal cancer, or fallopian tube cancer at any age 8. Pancreatic cancer 9. Metastatic Prostate cancer 10. A combination of 3 or more of the following cancers on one side of your family:
Uterine or endometrial cancer
Stomach, color, or other gastrointestinal cancer
Tell Me More: Understanding Hereditary Cancer
A little knowledge about genes can go a long way in helping you understand your risk for hereditary cancer.
Gene mutations associated with both breast and ovarian cancer can run in families. Scientific breakthroughs in the last two decades have uncovered many mutations types including, BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, MLH1, TP53, PTEN, STK11, CDH1, CHEK2, and ATM, among other less well-defined gene mutation syndromes.
Genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 (for breast cancer genes 1 and 2) normally stop breast and ovarian cells from growing and dividing uncontrolled. When an error occurs, or there is a mutation, it can increase the chances of cancer developing. We all have two copies of each gene. As long as at least one BRCA1 and one BRCA2 gene work normally, your risk for cancer won’t be raised; the copies of each gene act as backups for each other. However, if both copies are damaged, your body loses a tool for stopping cancer cells from growing.
Some people are not born with normal genes- they inherit a mutation. Since they don’t have backup protection, any damage to the normal gene can lead to cancer.
The good news is that these mutations can sometimes be discovered through genetic testing, so those that carry them can proactively reduce their risk. If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you should ask your health provider about genetic testing. And if you already have breast or ovarian cancer, understanding whether your cancer is hereditary in nature can impact your family members and help you and your doctors create a more personalized healthcare plan.
The first thing every woman should do is learn as much as she can about her family history and then assess her risk. Once you know your risk, discuss your results with your healthcare provider. If you learn that you are at an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, you should consider exploring genetic counseling and testing. If you already have breast or ovarian cancer, learning that it is hereditary can help you and your doctors choose the best treatment plan and follow-up care for you and can inform family members of their potential risks. You can also take advantage of our Ask a Genetic Counselor resource to ask any questions you may have.
Now that you are armed with some great resources and guides, you have the power to be your own best health advocate. It’s up to you to take the next step to manage your health proactively.
Ocean Spray hosted Bright Pink and vineyard vines in Rochester, MA at one of their farmer-owned cranberry bogs. Our “Pink Cranberry Harvest” included a first ever vineyard vines whale made completely of cranberries.
We are so pleased to team up with these iconic family brands both of whom have been touched personally by our cause and are committed to bringing our mission directly to their customers nationwide.
Ocean Spray will use their brand power to raise awareness and educate women, together with Bright Pink, throughout the year on a college campus tour, around Mother’s Day and during family history month.
“It is always gratifying to see two of our partners join forces to further our mission,” said Katie Thiede, CEO of Bright Pink. “Through their generous commitment, we will have the power to educate and equip women across the country on their breast and ovarian cancer risk. Together, we will create a more beautiful and brighter future.”
This is not the first fall that vineyard vines has generously committed to supporting our mission. For the third year in a row, vineyard vines and Bright Pink have built a partnership that stays true to each of our brand’s core values. Bright Pink’s mission is naturally woven into the vineyard vines story due to their founders’ personal connection to our cause. Unlike traditional cancer organizations, Bright Pink’s focus on prevention aligns well with vineyard vines’ lifestyle brand because both are positive, empowering and approachable. This year, they will be fueling our mission by donating 20% of proceeds from their Bright Pink Collection throughout the month of October.
Additionally,vineyard vines will go beyond a financial contribution and share Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk tool with all of their customers. They are taking our motto of awareness + action to heart, and together we have made it easier than ever to be proactive—just text “BRIGHTER FUTURE” to 59227 to assess YOUR breast and ovarian cancer risk today.
Bright Pink partners with Zeta Tau Alpha to promote prevention on campus and in communities.
You’ve probably seen the statistic 1 in 8. That’s the average woman’s risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, about 12%. But did you know that not every woman is at “average” risk of developing this disease?
When you know your cancer risk, you can take action to reduce it – and perhaps prevent a diagnosis altogether. That’s why Bright Pink developed the Bright Lite in collaboration with Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA)–a women’s fraternity dedicated to fighting breast cancer. Through a 3-year partnership, Bright Pink and ZTA have helped to educate over 35,000 young women across the country on breast and ovarian cancer prevention. This year, we aim to build on ZTA’s longstanding commitment to breast cancer awareness by showing how individual action can influence entire communities.
The Bright Lite is a bite-sized online educational workshop that equips viewers with the breast and ovarian health knowledge they need to be proactive. Bright Lite breaks down why it is so important to know your breast and ovarian cancer risk, what factors can increase or reduce your risk, and how you can determine your personal cancer risk. It also teaches you handy habits you can start now to reduce your risk of cancer throughout your life. Most importantly, the Bright Lite directly links viewers to assessyourrisk.org/ztawhere ZTA chapter members, alumnae, and YOU can take 5 minutes to learn about your personal risk.
Bright Pink is excited to share this essential knowledge with ZTA and continue working with its members to raise mass awareness about the importance of knowing and acting on your personal risk. What better way to fight breast cancer than preventing it in the first place? The preventive, pink future looks bright!
Did you know? Recent research shows that more than 40% of cancer deaths could be prevented through lifestyle strategies, like healthy eating or self-exams. For those of us with breasts and ovaries, it’s never too early to develop a personalized plan for prevention. It all starts with becoming aware of our unique risk factors. Family history, physical features, and daily habits can all impact our chances of developing cancer.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging everyone to #AssessThenAct: take the Assess Your Risk quiz, and then create a preventative action plan to protect your health. Get started in just 5 minutes today.
If you’re at a low, moderate, or high risk for breast or ovarian cancer, one of the simplest preventative strategies you can implement is embracing healthy eating habits. Whole grains and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables help keep our bodies healthy and reduce our chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer. To get you started, Bright Pink team member Cavya has shared some of her healthy, mouth-watering recipes below!
Bright Pink Smoothie Bowl
This super tasty smoothie bowl is a breeze to whip together and will probably make your Instagram dreams come true. And if that’s not enough to sell you, nutrient-packed ingredients like berries, tropical fruit, and flax seeds can help you lower your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. What more could you want?
½ cup frozen strawberries
¼ cup frozen raspberries
½ cup greek yogurt
½ cup almond milk
½ cup mango chunks
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
¼ cup raspberries
Blend together frozen berries, greek yogurt, and almond milk into a thick smoothie. Pour into a bowl and top with the remaining ingredients. Feel like a goddess of health and wellness.
Vegan Lentil Curry with Brown Rice
This quick and simple curry packs in tons of protein and flavor and is the perfect go-to for #MeatlessMondays. Consuming high amounts of red meat has been proven to increase your risk of breast cancer, so cutting down whenever possible is always a great idea. Plus, a ton of these ingredients is on our cancer-fighting grocery list!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp of fresh, minced ginger
1 jalapeño, diced with seeds removed (optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 dried red chili pepper (optional)
½ tsp turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp whole or ground cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1 cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly
1 can light coconut milk
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
Cook brown rice according to package directions. In a medium saucepan, saute onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño in olive oil until soft. Add in spices (mustard seeds, dried chili, turmeric, cumin, and curry powder) and let them toast for about 30 seconds. Add in diced tomato, coconut milk, water, salt, pepper, and lentils, simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and fully cooked. Add in baby spinach and stir. Serve over brown rice garnished with cilantro, a lime wedge, and a side of your favorite veggie.
We know you’ll love these delicious, risk-reducing recipes. If you try them out, make sure to post your finished product on Instagram and tag @BeBrightPink so we can ❤️️your pic!
Your breasts contain several types of tissue, from glandular lobes that create milk when you are pregnant, to lymph and blood vessels, to fatty tissue. Breast density is a way to measure how much of your breast is made up of fatty tissue. Dense breasts contain less fatty tissue. Since dense tissue and tumors both appear white on a mammogram, dense breast tissue can make it hard to find tumors or other changes in the breast on a mammogram.
How does breast density affect my breast cancer risk?
In addition to making cancer detection more difficult, breast density also increases your risk of breast cancer. Studies show that having dense breasts can double your risk of getting breast cancer. Ugh.
If a radiologist determines that you have dense breasts, talk to your healthcare provider about what screening options are available to you, taking into account other risk factors like family history of breast cancer, personal health history, and lifestyle. Currently, there are no guidelines or recommendations for increased or additional screening for women with dense breasts.
What types of screening are available and when are they used?
2D Mammogram: This is the most common form of mammography. Your personal and family health history will determine when you start screening.
3D Mammogram: This technology is becoming more widely available and proven to be more accurate than 2D mammography.
Breast MRI: This can be used in addition to mammography if your provider wants a more accurate reading. This can be utilized for women at elevated risk.
Breast Ultrasound: This can be used to look more closely at something suspicious. It can also be helpful in addition to mammography for women with dense or fibrocystic breasts.
Now that you know a little something about breast density, move beyond awareness to ACTION. Here’s how…
Sign Up for Bright Pink Breast Health Reminders
Our girls come in all different types of sizes, shapes, and varying densities. Text BRIGHT to 59227 and reply Y, or sign up here, for Bright Pink’s Breast Health Reminders™. We’ll send you regular reminders to check in with your breasts so that you can better define what’s normal for YOU. You are just one text message away from living your #breastlife.