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Community, Elevated Risk Women, Health Innovation, Prevention, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

7 Things Elevated Risk Women Should Know & Do During the Pandemic

The world may feel like it’s spinning out of control. Here at Bright Pink, we want to let you know that we are still providing you with the support and resources you need to live proactively. 

Right now may be especially stressful for women at elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancer. We want to share 7 things elevated risk women should know and do during the pandemic. 

1. Know your risk factors – Just like you would with breast and ovarian cancer, it’s important to understand your risk factors for COVID-19. We know that individuals from older age demographics, those with chronic illnesses like diabetes, and those with suppressed immune systems from things like cancer treatment, face more risk of severe COVID-19 complications than the average individual. If you, or someone you care for, has some of these risk factors, check in with your provider to make a prevention plan.

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.

5. Seek support – As if living with an elevated cancer risk was not stressful enough!  During this time it is especially important to seek sources of support. At Bright Pink we offer two “remote” support options: our wonderful Facebook Support Community, and one-on-one peer support from our partner Imerman Angels.

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!

A message from Bright Pink's Chief Medical Officer, Deborah Lindner, MD
Community, Fueling our Mission, Health Innovation, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle, Written by Medical Expert

Exuding Brightness Through Darker Times

Dear Bright Pink Family, 

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:

Exude Brightness

At Bright Pink, we often say that we are not victims of a disease, but powerful advocates for our own health. We often find ourselves facing what could be scary realities: breast or ovarian cancer for ourselves or our loved ones, and right now, COVID-19. The risks are real, but there are real ways we can make a difference in our own health outcomes, and that is something to be smart and optimistic about! Even in the face of fear, there is power and strength in both positivity and advocating for our health. We will not let this destroy our brightness. Instead, we will look for ways to persevere through difficulty.

As a community, we will share smart but optimistic ways to combat fear and darkness, whether that is for breast and ovarian cancer risk or for Coronavirus. Stay tuned for bits of positivity from Bright Pink in the coming days: inspiring stories, empowering health recommendations, and more on what we are doing to stay BRIGHT!

Model ProactivityModel Proactivity

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.

Insure Inclusivity Ensure Inclusivity

Our community is diverse in terms of cancer risk, race, socioeconomic status, geography, and overall access to health care. We are doing everything we can to think about every woman’s needs when it comes to risk. Some of our messaging is targeted to women who have never even considered their risk of cancer, while other messages are directed towards women at the highest risk. We will continue to address topics across all of our forums to focus on the needs of every woman we serve.

Pursue Innovation Pursue Innovation

We can’t imagine a better time to be an innovative, digital, health leader! All of our tools are easily accessible through phones and computers, and we continue to focus on ways to innovatively meet your health information needs.

Build Partnerships Build Partnerships

Now more than ever, we need the help of our partners and donors to keep this important work going. We know that breast and ovarian cancer isn’t going away despite the fact that our attention is being steered towards staying safe in a pandemic. If you have the ability to support our work right now, please give generously to ensure we can keep fulfilling our mission.

Obsess Over Impact Obsess Over Impact

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. 

We hope you will stay close to us during this unprecedented time and be encouraged, uplifted, inspired, and motivated to better your health through our continued work. We are here for you – we will get through this together. 

All our best and brightest!

—The Bright Pink team


Assess Your Risk, Hey Sis

The “C” Word: Four Ways to Creating a Healthy Family Narrative

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.

Homework:  Fill out a family health history form with the information of your loved ones. Then use that information when you take Bright Pink’s 5-minute quiz to learn about your risk for breast and ovarian cancer and get your personalized prevention plan.

“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. 

Meet the author
women working out together
Assess Your Risk, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle, Uncategorized, Written by Medical Expert

How Physical Activity Impacts Cancer Risk

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.

young friends walking down stairs together

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.

How active do you need to be to get the benefits?

Often when we talk about physical activity, we talk about minutes and “intensity”. For example, Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends getting 150 minutes a week of “moderate-intensity” physical activity

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)
  • water aerobics
  • gardening
  • tennis (doubles)
  • biking slower than 10 miles per hour
  • lifting weights (depending on your effort this can also be vigorous-intensity)
woman happy riding bike

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
  • running
  • swimming laps
  • tennis (singles)
  • cycling 10 miles per hour or faster
  • jumping rope
woman hiking

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.

Trainer Austin’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.  

Elevated risk women should also consider talking to a doctor before starting a workout program, especially if they have undergone or are considering undergoing surgery. It’s best to make sure that you can safely complete any new physical activity before you start! 

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. 

woman lifting weights

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.

Trainer Austin’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!

marathon runner

Trainer Austin’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.

Let's Get in Shero Shape - Blog Article
Assess Your Risk, Prevention, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle, Written by Medical Expert

Let’s get in Shero Shape!

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. 

And if making your body look more like a cartoon Shero is your goal, a little weight lifting is a great idea for all women too. We know that weight bearing exercise increases bone mass, making your bones stronger. Someday everyone will be menopausal and wish they had spent more time building strong bones at the gym earlier in life.

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…

Bright-PInk-Quick-Reads-Live-That-Prevention-Life
Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Hey Sis

Live that Prevention Life

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, aka Dr. 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.

Stage 2:

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%.

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’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?

Dr. Wendy: Personal risk assessments 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.

Learn your risk & get a prevention plan in 5 mins. from your phone.

woman-on-phone

If you know that any of your first- or second-degree family members 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.

What is the recommended age to learn your risk & get a personalized prevention plan?

Dr. Wendy: 18 or even younger. Why not? Ask your parents and extended family. Any family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer is relevant, as are your habits and personal characteristics.

Learn your risk & get a prevention plan in 5 mins.

Why do you think women choose not to learn 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.

I’ve learned my risk and have my personalized prevention plan, now what?

Dr. Wendy: Have a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider, especially if your risk is elevated. You’ll need to start additional or different screening if you have a higher risk.

What are some common breast cancer risk factors to watch for, especially for African American women?

Dr. Wendy: Research has shown that Black women have significantly denser breasts than 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.

(Want to learn more about reducing cancer risks for Black women? Check out our Facebook Live featuring Dr. Wendy and Dr. Kiarra King!)

For additional advice and to learn more about her work, visit Dr. Wendy’s fun and informational website.

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

Bright-Pink-is-going-red!
Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Prevention, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle, Written by Medical Expert

Bright Pink is Going Red – and You Should Too!

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.

Having an overweight BMI, starting your period before the age of 12, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking can all increase your risk for heart disease as well as breast and ovarian cancer.

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:

  • blood pressure
  • cholesterol levels
  • 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.

woman-smoking

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.

Family-Health-Form

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!

Follow Dr. Rupa Sanghani on Twitter @RupaSanghaniMD
Watch Dr. Rupa Sanghani’s Facebook Live about why you should Go Red.

Dr. Rupa Snaghani 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.


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#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.

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