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Hey Sis, Personal Stories

Shine Brighter, Sis

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.

Meet the author
What you need to know about DCIS. Written in Collaboration with Dr. Swati Kulkarni
Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Prevention, Uncategorized, Written by Medical Expert

What You Need to Know About DCIS

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?

DCIS or invasive breast cancer may run in your family. Other women may develop DCIS because of their environment, and for some women, we do not know why they developed DCIS.

Maintaining a healthy weight and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink are two things that you can do to help reduce your risk of developing DCIS.

(Want to learn more about reducing your breast cancer risk? Check out Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk tool.)

women-workout-happy

How is DCIS diagnosed?

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.

doctor looking through microscope

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?

overwhelmed woman

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.

doctor consulting with patient

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?

woman holding pills in hand

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.

black woman reflecting

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.

woman sitting on sofa with laptop

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.

*Refers to pure DCIS.

Dr. Swati Kulkarni Bio
Bright Pink Quick Reads-Family Health History: A Powerful Roadmap
Assess Your Risk, Family Health History

Family Health History: a powerful roadmap to manage your risk

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.

Getting Started

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:

  1. A close relative with a known genetic mutation associated with an increased or high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer risk:
  • BRCA1, BRCA2
  • 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)
  • PALB2
  • CHEK2
  • ATM
  • NBN
  • BRIP1
  • RAD51C
  • RAD51D
  • NF1

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:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Uterine or endometrial cancer
  • Stomach, color, or other gastrointestinal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Adrenocortical carcinoma
  • Brain tumor
  • Leukemia

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.

What’s Next?

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.


vineyard-vines-pink-whale-in-cranberry-bog
#BCAM, Assess Your Risk, Fueling our Mission, Prevention

A Pink Harvest with vineyard vines & Ocean Spray

On Wednesday, September 18, 2019 Bright Pink kicked off an exciting collaboration with Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. & vineyard vines.

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.

vineyard-vines-Bright-Pink-collection
ZTA-sorority-woman-with-breast-cancer-ribbon
#BCAM, Assess Your Risk, Prevention, ZTA

Think Pink and Practice Prevention

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? 

There are many factors that impact your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, including your personal and family health history. From your lifestyle, to grandma’s health, to the age you started your period – it all affects your risk level. Women who have a family history of cancer or a genetic mutation in the BRCA genes may have as high as a 70% chance of developing cancer. That’s a lot different than 12%!

No matter your risk level, you can take your health into your own hands and reduce your risk. Knowing your risk level allows you to determine what actions you should take. That could be as simple as making sure you break a sweat five times a week or as involved as talking to your doctor about increasing your regular screening.

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/zta where ZTA chapter members, alumnae, and YOU can take 5 minutes to learn about your personal risk.

bright-lite-logo

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!

healthy-food-illustration-cavyas-recipes
#BCAM, Assess Your Risk

Cavya’s Recipes to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

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.

Take the Assess Your Risk Quiz

What I Ate In A Day (to reduce my risk of breast & ovarian cancer) from Bright Pink on Vimeo.

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?

Ingredients

  • Smoothie
    • ½ cup frozen strawberries
    • ¼ cup frozen raspberries
    • ½ cup greek yogurt
    • ½ cup almond milk
  • Toppings
    • ½ cup mango chunks
    • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
    • ¼ cup raspberries

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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!

dr.-wendy-mcdonald-live-that-prevention-life
#BCAM, Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Hey Sis

Dr. Wendy McDonald: Live That Prevention Life

Prevention Tips & How Early Detection Can Increase Your Odds of Survival

Knowledge is power. Every year for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, folks across the country take part in essential conversations about protecting our health and happiness. Through these conversations, they start to build self-knowledge—and this year, Bright Pink wants to take awareness to the next level.

This year, Bright Pink is all about Breast Cancer ACTION Month. Turn to Bright Pink throughout October to access the tools you need to be all about it, too.

To get started, all-star OB/GYN and blogger Dr. Wendy McDonald, aka Dr. Every Woman, breaks down how to turn self-awareness into cancer prevention, in plain language that everyone can understand. 

Check it out, and get your questions answered. And make sure to read all the way to the end to see the next step to protect your bright future during Breast Cancer Awareness &  ACTION Month! And, stop by Bright Pink’s Facebook page to watch our Facebook Live with Dr. Wendy.

How Early Detection Can Protect You 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. 

Stage 2: Now, in Stage 2, the breast cancer has either spread to the lymph nodes or is significantly larger. The 5-year survival rate for Stage 2 is 93%.

Stage 3: 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%. 

This is why early detection is so extremely important. The earlier you detect a cancer, the more likely you are to beat it. 

So many people don’t want to find out that they have cancer because they think that it is 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. 

Tools to Prepare Yourself for Early Detection & Cancer Prevention
Dr. Wendy: Personal risk assessment are a great place to start! Risk assessments analyze information that you provide to predict your personal risk of breast cancer. These tools are extremely useful in identifying whether or not you need additional screening and testing above what is recommended for the average woman .

If you know that your first- or second-degree family member(s) had a certain type of cancer, you will be more prepared to screen and catch any abnormalities. Remember that the earlier you detect breast cancer, the more likely you are to survive and fight back.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging all women to #AssessThenAct: take the Assess Your Risk quiz, and then create a preventive action plan with your personalized results. It only takes 5 minutes!

Take Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk Quiz

Important Next Steps After Completing a Personal Risk Assessment
Dr. Wendy: Have a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider. If your risk is elevated especially, further or different screening should be initiated.

Common Breast Cancer Risk Factors to Watch For, Especially in African American Women

Dr. Wendy: Research has shown that black women have significantly denser breast that caucasian women. 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. 

Dr. Wendy Weighs In On Why She Thinks People Don’t Assess Their Risk

Dr. Wendy: Lack of Family Health History: Honestly, I think that one of the barriers is knowledge of family history. Many families in various cultures just don’t share. If grandmother died of something, that was “her business.” 

Taboo Conversations: We also sometimes don’t want to “speak” illness, as if talking about it causes it in some way. While I believe in the power of positive thinking and prayer, we should be informed about what is going on in our family so that we can prevent or catch issues early in the future.

The Recommended Age for Assessing Your Risk

Dr. Wendy: 18 or younger. Why not? Ask your parents and extended family. Breast cancer family history, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer are all relevant, as are habits and personal characteristics.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging all women to #AssessThenAct: take the Assess Your Risk quiz, and then create a preventive action plan with your personalized results. It only takes 5 minutes!

Take Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk Quiz

A huge thank you to Dr. Wendy McDonald for helping us put together this guide to early detection, self-awareness, and risk factors! Check out more of her advice and work on her amazing website. And, don’t forget to visit Bright Pink’s Facebook page to watch our Facebook Live with Dr. Wendy.

P.S. Dr. Wendy wants to give a gentle reminder: men can get breast cancer, too.

How-Much-Do-You-Know-About-Breast-Density
#BCAM, Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Hey Sis

How Much Do You Know About Breast Density?

A major part of living your #breastlife is getting familiar with your girls, but how familiar are you?

Did you know that about 40% of women in the United States have dense breasts- with Black women having a higher rate? We have the lowdown on what exactly is breast density and how to find out if your girls are dense.

What does it mean if I have dense breasts?

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.

The first step to prevention and early detection is to know your risk. Take 5 minutes to assess your risk now.

Who is more likely to get dense breasts besides Black women?

  • Young women
  • Women who have a lower BMI
  • Premenopausal women
  • Postmenopausal women taking hormone therapy

But…the medical community is not entirely sure. Your breast density can change as you age, or as your bodyweight changes.

How do I find out if I have dense breasts?

The only way to truly know if you have dense breasts is through mammography. Some states have laws that say a radiologist/healthcare provider must inform you if you have dense breasts, and some states don’t.  Your best bet? Talk with your healthcare provider and ask them directly if you have dense breasts.

What happens next?

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.

#Assess Then Act

Remember, the first step to prevention and early detection is to know your risk. Take 5 minutes to assess your risk now, and start living your #breastlife.

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