The past two years have brought a lot of worry. COVID has been an unprecedented source of worry for people young and old. Women, in particular, were hit hard. Obligations at home collided with work and life. At times life felt like a swirling abyss of melding obligations. Even before COVID, young women had a lot on their plates – career, family, meaning, and health. Typically, breast cancer was not on the list of worries for women between ages 25-40.
I am in my late 30s. I have four young children and a career. I know the juggle. I live it every day. The last thing I want to do is give other women at this moment in their lives something else to worry about. So, I won’t.
What I will do is give younger women, like me, a way to take control; to feel as though there is something that you can do to increase your chances of leading a happy, healthy, balanced life. The key is to be vigilant about breast health – even now. Women at average risk for breast cancer should have annual mammograms starting at age 40.
But even younger women who are not eligible can do three things to lower breast cancer risk significantly:
Breast self-exam is a literal way of taking your life into your own hands. There are many videos and tutorials online that explain the best way to do a breast self-exam. It takes about 10 minutes, can be done at home, and is often lifesaving.
Find out about your family history
You are never too young to find out whether breast, or other, cancer runs in your family. Ask your mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins, and sisters what they know about breast, ovarian, and other cancers in your family. If you come from a family with many men, it may be helpful to ask extended family too. If you find that there is significant cancer in your family, talk to your primary care doctor or OB-GYN about early screening, genetic testing, or any other steps you may need to take to protect yourself and your family.
When breast cancer is found in its earliest stages it is over 98% curable. If you take steps now to protect yourself and your family, you will have one less thing to worry about and one more reason to celebrate.
Be a secret weapon
As a young woman, you have a lot of ability to influence others’ lives. Be sure to check in with your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other women older than 40 who you love. Help them make their breast screening appointments and maybe even go for a pedicure or for a lunch date afterward.
No doubt, COVID made life seem crazier than before. But take breast cancer worry off your plate. When it comes to breast cancer, you have the tools to find it early. When breast cancer is found in its earliest stages it is over 98% curable. If you take steps now to protect yourself and your family, you will have one less thing to worry about and one more reason to celebrate. Commit to tackling breast health for yourselves, the people you love, and those who love you. If you want more information, go to www.checkmybreasts.org.