Young woman with breast cancer

When Should You Begin Breast Cancer Screening?

It is that time of the year where we focus on your breasts! I was thinking about the topic on my walk this morning when I noticed these two pairs of acorns that literally just looked like breasts to me. It was a sign!

 

Are you over the age of 40 or have a first degree relative (mom, dad, sisters/brothers) that has a history of breast cancer? There is no clear consensus for when women with average risk should begin screening for breast cancer but most will say that you should begin between the ages of 40-49.  See the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines under our Resources Tab.  There are several risk factors that may move the start age up.  This is a conversation you should be having with your primary care clinician or ob/gyn so that you two can review your family history and other risk factors.  

Breast cancer accounts for 30% of the new cancer diagnosis each year but due to improved technology and treatment, we now have a 90% 5-year survival rate.

  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • It is second most common type in women behind skin cancer
  • Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
  • The two biggest risk factors are being a woman and advanced age.
  • Less than 1% of all diagnosis will be in men.

Screening mammograms are done when there is no current problem. Diagnostic mammograms are done when there is a question about something they see on the screening mammogram and they are doing a more detailed look at the problem area.

As an ObGyn, I follow ACOG’s recommendations but you may be seeing a family medicine clinician who is following the USPTF (first column) guidelines. Once you discuss your risk factors, you can decide at what age you need to begin getting them, how often or when to stop them. You can decide if you want to get genetic testing done.

Educate yourself and ask family members if they have had breast disease.  Review the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines.  Make an appointment with your clinician so that you can review your options if you think you are at high risk.  Speak up for yourself if you do not agree with your clinician’s advice. My feisty mom was told that she didn’t need one since she was over 70. She told them she didn’t care and would pay for it out of pocket. You guessed it. It showed a small change which was diagnosed as a Stage I breast cancer.

Your insurance company may have guidelines on what they will pay for but you can always agree to pay for one out of pocket if you want to.  If you do not have insurance, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and they can direct you to the nearest place that can assist you.

 

Top View of Sneakers on the grass with the text: It Starts With You

Take Responsibility For Your Health

Vaccine or no vaccine? Masks or no masks? Become a hermit or figure out how to live with it?  Did you know that YOU, and only YOU, are responsible for your health?  Act like the adult that you are and take responsibility for your health.

We just had a holiday weekend and there were so many decisions to make, weren’t there?  Cake or no cake? Exercise or sit on your butt again? Smoking/vaping or kicking the habit? Alcohol–to use or abstain from? Fried chicken or grilled chicken? Pecan pie or fresh fruit? Meat or no meat? Hot dogs or lean meats? Grilled veggies or fried battered veggies? I mean, who doesn’t like fried pickles?

I could go on and on and on but I am ready to throw down the gauntlet.  

It is truly your body, your decision. Not just about the vaccine or the mask.  You are literally responsible for your own health so begin acting like it.   I don’t care what the topic of the day is but if you are serious about avoiding hospitalization for any reason, you need to begin taking better care of yourself.

There are some people who are doing an amazing job on all fronts when it comes to their health journey. I tip my hat off to you as you have made your health a priority and I know that this takes a dedicated focus on a daily basis.

The majority of us are somewhere on the continuum of this work. I know that many of you have made so much progress and I will continue to be a pest in case you need a nudge.   There are some who don’t want to proactive but then want everything done when they finally go in for care.  What are you waiting for?

According to the CDC, the medical conditions that are most likely going to put you at risk of severe illness from COVID are the following:

  • High blood pressure (especially if it is poorly controlled)
  • Obesity (BMI > 30)
  • Diabetes (especially if it is poorly controlled)
  • Smoking/vaping or a history of using tobacco products
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy or recent pregnancy
  • Lung problems
  • Chronic kidney problems

Are any of these on your list of medical conditions? The more conditions that you have, the more at risk you will be for hospitalization, with or without COVID.  Don’t wait until it is too late to take responsibility for your health.  Reach out to your primary care provider and make an appointment.

We are 19 months into this pandemic so if you haven’t’ begun working on improving your numbers, losing weight or kicking the tobacco/vaping habit, you need to make an action plan.

TODAY.

3 Myths to Dispel About Skin Cancer

Who was basking in the sun this weekend? ??‍♀️

Who has basked in the sun over the last 5 or 6 decades? ??‍♀️

Who has covered themselves with baby oil and then fallen asleep poolside, in your lounge chair in your backyard or on the beach? ??‍♀️

Most of us probably still have our hands raised so I have 3 myths to dispel about skin cancer while I have your attention.

Myth #1: I have ‘brown’ skin so I won’t get skin cancer.

    • False. All skin types are at risk for getting skin cancer.  Having less pigment in your skin does increase the risk of damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays but all skin that is constantly exposed to these rays is at risk.  There are skin cancers that occur from other causes as well so continue to inspect your skin and have others peek at your back.

Myth #2: Only people with blue or light colored eyes get skin cancer.

    • False. Individuals of all eye colors can get skin cancer. Those with lighter eyes are more likely to get the ones from UV ray damage but again, there are other types that you need to be aware of.

Myth #3: Only older individuals will get skin cancer.

    • False. Individuals of all ages can get skin cancer.  Your risk is based on your personal and family history, total sun exposure and the number of sunburns or tanning bed sessions.  It is never too late to begin become proactive with this preventative measure.

There are many types of skin cancers so it is important to read about the different types so that you can act on any changes that you may notice on your skin.  The Mayo Clinic has a great summary of what to look for and the different types of skin cancers.  It has great pictures of the different types of skin cancer.  

Read through this resource and then look at your skin from all angles and make note of any concerns that you may have.   Take pictures for your personal files.  Schedule a follow up appointment with your clinician to discuss your concerns or bring this up at your next preventative visit.

 

 

 

12 Monthly Health Goals

Monthly health goals

Here we are at the beginning of a new month and week. How did you do with your goals last month? I have attached the link to our Health Goal planner from our website that allows you to reflect and pencil in what small steps you can work on this month.

In January, we talked about the daunting process of making healthy choices more manageable by breaking them down into small steps. By focusing your target on one thing at a time and by building on what you did over the last months, you will have built in 12 extra healthy habits by the end of the year.

What if you haven’t started? Who cares! You can start this journey at any time so no more excuses. One of our team members is working on how to eat healthier by making better eating and drinking choices. She is approaching this from the ‘Food is Fuel’ perspective. It is definitely about changing her past experience of ’emotional eating’ to eating because ‘food is fuel’. Here is her plan of what this does over the course of a year.

12 Monthly Health Goals

  • January–no artificial sweeteners
  • February–no added sugars
  • March–drink only water, unsweetened teas
  • April–no desserts except one cupcake for special occasions
  • May–try one new fruit and vegetable each week
  • June–no processed snacks
  • July–no snacks in-between meals
  • August–eat all of her meals during an 8 hour window (basic intermittent fasting)
  • September–include meat in her meal planning only once a day
  • October–include meat in her meal planning 4 days a week
  • November–limit alcohol to Friday and Saturdays
  • December–look at recipes to see how to make her traditional holiday menu a healthier one.

By breaking down her healthier eating goals into small parts, she can manage this and doesn’t feel overwhelmed. She is actually ahead of schedule as she found that she could eliminate artificial sweeteners and added sugars at the same time.

You may be able to move through your list more quickly but for someone who was trying to change 50 years of ‘bad habits’ and still cooking for several family members, she felt she needed to move at this pace. She now has several family members who have joined her so this makes it easier.

Write it down, map it out and accept that you may have a few hiccups. NO ONE is perfect.

Are You Apple or Pear Shaped?

where does your body store fat?

 

Are you apple or pear shaped? The way your body stores fat can increase your risk for heart disease.  Did you know that your body shape can be a risk factor for heart disease?

 

Are you shaped like an apple or a pear?

 

If you tend to carry your excess weight in your central or belly area, then you are apple shaped. If you tend to carry your excess weight in your hips, thighs and bottom, then you are pear shaped.

 

Why is this important?

 

Women who are apple shaped are more at risk for metabolic syndrome. This may put you at risk for heart disease, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and irregular periods.

The simplest way to assess this is to look in the mirror. Most of us can identify with a shape very quickly; I am a pear.

Scientifically there are two ways:

  • Measure your waist at the narrowest point. If it is greater than 35 inches, then you are at increased risk.
  • Measure your waist at the narrowest point and your hips at the widest point. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. If the value is greater than 0.8, then you are considered an apple.

So your heart health assessment for today is this:

Determine your body shape and tell us what your body shape is.

 

Fall in Love With Yourself and Improve Your Heart Health

I LOVE ME!

 

What a great week to fall in love with yourself and improve your heart health.  Despite the commercial hype of the holiday, use the buzz from the messaging to help you move along your course to improving your heart health.

You cannot change some of the risk factors that put you at risk for heart disease such as age, race and gender but you can work on the ‘modifiable’ risk factors.  Use this week to set a daily goal to take action on some of them.

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • I am a smoker.
  • I don’t exercise on a regular basis.
  • I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are.
  • I haven’t checked my blood pressure recently.
  • I need to be at a healthier weight
  • I have not been screened for diabetes.
  • I need to lower my stress levels
  • I do not follow a heart healthy diet

Not all of these risk factors will apply to you but you can work on some of these things. We discussed checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels last week.  Focus on one thing and make a plan to ‘fix’ it. The plan may begin by simply scheduling an appointment to check in with your clinician.

Once you have an action plan on your specific risk factor, move on to the next one. Over the course of the year, you will be in a better place. Take it one step at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.  This is definitely the week to fall in love with yourself and improve your heart health.  

YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Tips For Staying on Task With Your Heart Health Goals

What are Your Heart Health Goals?

We are starting a new month and January is behind us.  How did you do with your health goals last month?  Did you map out your needed appointments to cover all of your preventative screening tests for the year?

Doing this now gives you direction and also allows you to save any money needed to cover any deductibles or co-insurance.  If you don’t have insurance you have time to find available resources in your community through your local community health centers or health departments.

You may be asking what screenings do you need?  The United States Preventative Services Task Force has a list of screenings that you should discuss with your clinician every year to see what actions you need to take to improve your health.

February is the month where we celebrate Heart Health.  There are basic things that you need to know in order to focus your attention on this aspect of your health. You cannot change some of the risk factors that put you at risk for heart disease such as age, race and gender but you can work on the ‘modifiable’ risk factors.

Modifiable risk factors

Do any of the following apply to you?
  • I am a smoker.
  • I don’t exercise on a regular basis.
  • I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are or my levels are too high
  • I haven’t checked my blood pressure recently.
  • I need to be at a healthier weight
  • I have not been screened for diabetes or my diabetes is not well controlled
  • I need to lower my stress levels
  • I do not follow a heart healthy diet

take action on defining your goals

If any of the risk factors apply to you, you need to promise yourself that you will make a plan to address it.  The key is to start somewhere. Here are some tips for staying on task with your heart health goals.

Figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.  Take a deep breathe and focus on one thing at a time.  Let’s look at cholesterol screenings:

  • Pull out your medical records or log into your patient portal.  Gather whatever information you can collect and make note of what your baseline status was or is.
  • Do you know what your levels are?
  • Do you understand what they mean?
  • Has it been more than one year since you had your levels checked?  
  • If you have a prescription for cholesterol meds, are you filling it and taking them as instructed?
  • Are you following a heart healthy diet?

When you get to the point to where you ‘know your numbers’ and have an action plan, you can move on to the next topic.  Try focusing on one risk factor a month.  If you take it one step at a time and commit to making an action plan for each risk factor, you will have an action plan for improving your heart health by the end of 2021.

That’s not too hard is it?  Remember that self care is not selfish.

Which risk factor will you focus on this month?

 

 

Set Health Goals That Match Your Why

Monday Motivation

I worked with someone who sent me this list of goals:

  • Smoke less
  • Drink less
  • Have less fun

I love this!  In theory, these are great goals.  I wasn’t sure about the ‘have less fun’ goal but she explained that when she goes out to bars and ‘has fun’, she drinks too much which then gives her the urge to smoke.  She feels that she can go to other locations if she wants to be social without feeling like she has to drink.  

Why do you feel the need to set health goals? You must ask yourself why something is important to you. Set health goals that match your why so that they remain a priority to you.

So the first thing we did was to change the order of her goals.  She feels that she is a social drinker and smoker.  She knows that these are not good for her health and she was ready to make a plan for herself.  The first thing we did was to change the order of her goals since they are all related.

Have less fun > Drink less > Smoke less

When we are looking at health goals, you are more likely to succeed when you can answer ‘what is your why?’  Make them personal!  The 7 Levels Deep approach comes from Dean Graziosi’s Millionaire Success Habits and is used to keep fine tuning why you are setting out to make a goal and why it is important to you.  Here is an example of this using her goals:

    • What do you want to do?  I want to go out to bars less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can drink less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can smoke less.
    • Why is that important to you?  It isn’t healthy.
    • Why is that important to you?  I have asthma.
    • Why is that important to you?  It makes me cough too much.
    • Why is that important to you?  Coughing makes me pee on myself.

All kidding aside, this is just another approach to help you make goals that you can reach.  There are many tools available to help you write out your thoughts and to give you guidance on how to make them happen.  The most important thing is that you are thinking about what is important to you.  

Think about it, write it down and then make an action plan.   

 

Being Self Reliant Will Improve Your Overall Health

‘Me’ time, self care and self reliance…

These are the three core topics that we focus on in this group. We covered the overview of ‘me’ time and self-care the last two Mondays so be sure to go back and read them again.

You may question why self reliance is in this group but did you know that financial stress is one of the top conditions that can impact your physical and mental health?  Financial stress is one of the conditions that can impact your health and can cause relationship issues.  Being self reliant will improve your overall health.  A few examples of how it impacts your health are listed below.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Guilt
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Denial
  • Insomnia
  • Blood pressure problems

Over the last 30 years, I have spoken to so many women who are at a loss when it comes to their own finances. Not because they are being lazy but because they either rely or relied on their partner to ‘take care of all of that’ or they feel overwhelmed about how to get the financial information that they need.

One of the many things that 2020 showed us was that we cannot rely on one stream of income. Things beyond our control can impact that one paycheck. We have also seen how relying on the government to bail us out is NOT an option.

I am going to ask that you take a hard look at where you are financially. Do you have a consistent stream of income? Do you have multiple streams of income? Do you know how much debt you are in? Do you have a plan for how you are going to reduce and eliminate your debt? Do you know how to access all of your accounts? The list of questions is a long one but we will cover them in January.

I feel that it is crucial for all of you to become financially literate and financially independent so that you can be in a position to walk away from a toxic work environment or a toxic relationship. You should NEVER stay in either situation because you cannot afford to leave.

Let’s flip the situation. Are you the person in your family who is in charge of the finances? Are you responsible for overseeing your parent’s finances? If so, do others know where you keep all of your information so that if something happens to you, they will know where to look?

So I have a homework assignment for you for this next month. Gather all of your banking account information, pay stubs, and all of your bills. Yes, the holiday damage will take a month to sort through if you put your purchases on a credit card.

Put it all in one stack and we will begin working our way through a simple process so that you can organize the information and make a plan for how to ensure that you fully understand what is in front of you.

If your partner usually does this in your family, explain what you are doing and why. Ask them to teach you what they know. This may a tough conversation to have so prepare for some pushback.

My goal? Develop one more stream of income that brings in $1000/month.

What does one financial goal for 2021 look like for you? 

Self Care Should Be High On Your Priority List

Self Care is where you focus on your own physical and mental health. Self care should be high on your priority list.  How do you do this? How do you know what guidelines to follow? Do the generic guidelines that you read about apply to women your age?
 

The Well-Woman Chart by the Women’s Preventative Screening Initiatives guidelines are used as a baseline. They can be found at the website where you can download the document or use the interactive tool.

 
All of the scientific references are available for your review or you can search by your age group and it will tell you what preventative health screenings you need to discuss with your healthcare clinician.
 
You, and only you, are responsible for your health status. This pandemic has shown us how important it is for each of us to work on ourselves. Whether you are 18 or 70, there are things you can focus on.
 
If you are overweight, you only have to lose 5% of your body weight to begin seeing improvements in your blood pressure or levels of glucose in your blood.
 
Keeping your lungs healthy right now is probably the most important thing you can do and this is something you can address quickly. If you are using tobacco or vaping products, you need to seek help as soon as you can.
 
You will not see major changes happen overnight. Change is very hard and it is harder when you don’t have in-person access to your support network. Trying to motivate yourself is tough but you need to commit to making this a priority if you have not committed to this yet.
 
Take a few minutes and download the document. You can also find it in our Resources page.  Review the information and we will begin reviewing the topics again in the new year.
 
Have a great week