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Women in the Workplace: Bringing Awareness to Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which highlights a very serious and traumatic illness that affects thousands of women each year. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States (aside from skin cancer). As with most cancers, there is no singular cause for breast cancer, but rather a variety of risk factors that could contribute to a woman being diagnosed. It is also one of the most commonly misdiagnosed cancers and failure to carry out further testing to confirm the presence of cancer is often to blame.

This time of year is focused on raising awareness and bringing attention, to the working women with busy schedules, the importance of regular screenings and living a healthy lifestyle to prevent long-term complications to your body’s well-being. According to the American Cancer Society, women have about a 12% chance of developing breast cancer sometime in their life. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance you could possibly develop breast cancer. Thankfully, these rates have been on the decline since 1989 due to increased awareness, treatment improvements, and early detection methods.

The following are guidelines that all women should take in order to ensure a healthy mind and body despite a busy schedule.

Get regular breast cancer screenings.

It is recommend that all women receive breast cancer screenings from their physicians on an annual basis beginning at age 40. If you are at an increased risk, being regularly screened can help to detect the disease earlier and prevent it from spreading. There are several attributes that may contribute to a higher than average risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Age: The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed at age 50 and older.
  • Gender: Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for breast cancer. While both men and women can get breast cancer it is far more common in women than men.
  • Genetics: Between 5 and 10% of breast cancer cases are considered hereditary, resulting from genetic mutations. The most common of these mutations are BRCA1 or BRCA2, which can be passed down from a parent. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that suppress the growth of tumors. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, ensure the stability of each cell’s genetic material. When damaged or mutated, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
  • Family History: If a direct relative (mother, sister, daughter) has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk of developing the illness nearly doubles. If two direct relatives have had it, your risk triples.

Practice breast self-exams.

If you discover any changes in your breasts while performing your monthly self-exam, you should contact your doctor. Though most lumps and changes in your breasts are benign (non-cancerous), all require evaluation to confirm that they are not cancerous. See a doctor if you notice any of these breast changes:

  • A lump
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

Make healthy lifestyle choices.

Working long hours, along with immense stress can be very dangerous to a woman’s health. Getting the proper amount of rest, as well as keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in check will go a long way in preventing many illnesses and life-threatening conditions.

Beneficial lifestyle choices for lowering breast cancer risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Focus on a whole-food diet
  • Move every day
  • Limit your alcohol consumption

Improve your weight.

Being overweight or obese can dramatically increase your odds of having breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women, due to the fact that more fat tissue leads to higher estrogen levels. Instead of eating out at work, packing a healthy lunch is a great alternative. Be sure to eat fruits and vegetables, as well as balanced portion sizes. Not only will you save money, you will have more energy throughout the day than a much heavier and fattening take-out order.

Spread the word.

Make it a point to schedule an appointment for an annual check-up with your physician. Your health is important to your family, friends and your place of employment. You owe it to yourself to ensure your breasts are healthy. Use Breast Cancer Awareness Month to have the conversations that you normally wouldn’t with your doctor. With your help, thousands of deaths each year can be prevented, and we can decrease the number of women diagnosed annually. For more health and safety information, visit the website here.

Contributed by:
Chandler Coleman, Consumer Insights Investigator for
Carie Maguire, Contributing Editor for WELCOA

While all health problems are not created equally it’s important to take charge of your most valuable assets—your employees’ health! Download a free sample of our brand new Women’s Health brochure at