Information on the importance of knowing your risk of breast cancer, as well as easy lactation cookies created to boost breastmilk supply
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bring Your Brave campaign. All opinions are 100% mine.
Cookie recipe at the end.
Breast Cancer. I’d imagine that most of you reading this know at least one person affected by this disease. I know I do. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. Thanks to her diligent efforts to get a yearly mammogram, they caught it before it was even stage one.
When we found out she had cancer, it was a very frightening thing to hear, and I’m so grateful that she is cancer-free. My mom was so good about getting a yearly mammogram because both her grandmother and her mother had breast cancer. Her mother – my grandmother – had the most severe case. She was diagnosed at the age of 41, and it was rather aggressive. Although she survived and is now in her 80s, it was something that affected her and the family deeply. Because of the family history, my mom knew that she needed to make sure she always got her mammogram – and it’s something that may have saved her life.
Since my mom got breast cancer, there’s no doubt that there is a genetic component to it, and her doctors have told her that my sisters and I all need to get mammograms starting in our 30s. While this may seem cumbersome or a hassle, it’s something I feel very strongly about, especially as I’ve seen several young mothers that my family knows battle with breast cancer.
While I hope I never have to battle breast cancer, I do know that knowing my heightened risk and doing my best to prevent cancer is one of the most important things I can do. My mom said that I will probably want to get genetic counseling and testing done to see if I do have a breast cancer gene mutation. While I don’t know what I’d do with the information if I do, my mom feels like it will ensure my doctor takes me seriously when I say I want to start having mammograms in my 30s.
As you all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The CDC is launching the “Bring Your Brave” campaign this month to help encourage young women, like myself, to learn about their risk for breast cancer and take action. Breast Cancer is not just an “old person” disease, and it can affect anyone – 11% of all cases of breast cancer in the United States are women under 45 – many of these women didn’t even know they were at risk. Knowing your risk is so important. When someone is diagnosed at a young age, it’s typically hereditary. It’s often diagnosed at a later stage (because younger women often don’t recognize the symptoms because they don’t realize they should be looking for them), which results in the cancer being more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Risk Factors for breast cancer in young women
While it’s important to know the risk factors at any age, I’m hoping that these tips will help younger women realize if they are at a higher risk and they just don’t know it.
- Close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45 or ovarian cancer ever. If you have more than one relative who had breast cancer, or a male relative who had it (this is possible), the risk is greater.
- You have mutations, or changes, in breast cancer genes – BRCA1 or BRCA2 (or a close relative does, even if you haven’t been tested yourself.)
- Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage
- Radiation therapy to the breast/chest during childhood or early adulthood
- Other breast health problems
- Dense breasts identified in a mammogram
Understanding Your Risk
While women who have no risk factors may still get breast cancer, those who do have any of the risk factors above should especially try to understand their risks and what they should do about it. The simplest thing a woman can do is to know what her breasts look and feel like – if you notice any changes, talk to your doctor.
There is a family who goes to my church who had a daughter – a young mom – who noticed that there was a lump in her breast. She was pregnant, so she could have easily dismissed it as something related to pregnancy. However, she brought it up with her doctor and discovered that she did, indeed, have breast cancer. Her story is pretty incredible – she wasn’t given a lot of options, and they were dire at best, but she is cancer free now and gave birth to a healthy baby. Had she ignored those changes, the outcome of that story may have been entirely different.
You may know about your family’s history of breast or ovarian cancer, but if not, make sure you have that conversation with your close relatives. I didn’t even know until a few years ago that my great-grandmother had breast cancer. The CDC has a great worksheet to help with that conversation. Finally, talk to your doctor about your risk. They can help guide you to make the best decisions. At my upcoming postpartum doctor’s visit, I plan to talk with my OBGYN about genetic testing.
You may do everything right and still get breast cancer – especially if it’s hereditary. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk, and I wrote a post awhile back about tips for preventing breast cancer. I highly recommend checking it out. The Bring Your Brave campaign not only is about inspiring young women to learn their risk for breast cancer but to encourage all women to live a breast healthy lifestyle. They are sharing women’s stories about prevention, risk, and how they’ve been personally affected by breast cancer. And on October 27, they’re asking women to share what motivated them to learn their risk for breast cancer using #BraveBecause on social media.
One prevention “technique” that has particularly been on my mind as of late is breastfeeding. It has been shown to lower your risk of breast cancer. While it’s not a fool-proof method (my mom breastfed almost all of her six children), it is another benefit to breastfeeding if you can. Since my son, Oliver, was just born, we’ve been having a somewhat difficult breastfeeding experience – slow weight gain, breast milk supply that was lower because of mastitis, etc.
I thought I’d share a recipe that I’ve been making for lactation cookies, which I really feel has helped increase my milk supply which has allowed me to have more success with nursing him. These cookies have a lot of healthy ingredients in them, and if you are looking to have a healthier lifestyle, you can probably enjoy them even if you aren’t a lactating mother (Forrest and Jack love them!) They do have sugar in them, but that’s pretty necessary to hide the bitter taste of Brewer’s Yeast!
Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Lactation Cookie Recipe
- 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
- 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal + 3 tablespoons water.
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons brewers yeast
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup walnuts**
- Preheat oven to 340 degrees.
- Combine flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water and let stand for 2 minutes.
- Mix together with a hand or stand mixer coconut oil and brown sugar.
- Add in flaxseed meal mixture, eggs, and vanilla and mix until blended.
- Add the flour, brewers yeast, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix well.
- Add oats and walnuts.
- Place by the spoonful on a prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for about 12 minutes and cool on cooling rack.