Squashing Breast Cancer

Well-known television journalist and former anchor Katie Couric recently shared with the public that she was diagnosed with Stage 1A breast cancer in June, becoming one of the eight women diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, in the United States. Using her experience as a teaching moment, Couric admitted that she had put off getting her annual mammogram for six months. Fortunately, she underwent a lumpectomy in July to remove a tumor the size of an olive and did not need chemotherapy.

Other women will not be as lucky. According to Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control, our state has the third highest breast cancer death rate in the country. Surprisingly, the vast majority of breast cancer patients have neither a family history or a known gene that caused their cancer. Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer is hereditary, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Self-exams often uncover tumors, but should never take the place of annual mammograms. Between mammograms, look for the following:

-Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)

-Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)

-Breast or nipple pain

-Nipple turning inward

-Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened

-Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

-Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collar bone.

-Painless or painful hard or soft mass

Risk Factors

-Excess alcohol




-Lack of Exercise

-African American women are more likely to get breast cancer young – specifically triple-negative breast cancer.

Causes of Breast Cancer

According to the Global Cancer Observatory, there is evidence that the following are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women:

-Menstruation before age 12

-Greater birth weight

-Menopause after age 55

-Not bearing children

-First pregnancy over the age of 30

A Healthy Gut Matters

New research out of UVA Health in Virginia reveals that unhealthy gut microbiome could help a tumor metastasize. No surprise that the main factor that can impact the gut negatively is a poor diet — especially one low in fiber and high in red meat, sugar or highly processed grains.

Gut health can be improved by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, yogurt with probiotics, fermented foods – and honey.


While a mammogram is the standard for early detection of breast cancer, an ultrasound is usually recommended for women with dense breasts (caused by more fibro glandular tissue) that tends to camouflage cancer on a mammography. However, a mammogram can see tiny calcifications that may indicate pre-cancerous lesions that ultrasound cannot. So, both have a place in the detection of early, curable breast cancer. MRI is more sensitive than both mammography and ultrasound, but is currently reserved for high-risk patients.

When to Get a Mammogram

The American Cancer Society recommends a regular mammogram for:

-women 45 and older

-any woman, of any age, experiencing breast cancer symptoms or who has a strong family history of the disease

Helpful Information

SurviveDat provides online resources and support to breast cancer survivors under 40, as well as the people who care for them.

Women with insurance who are not able to afford all screening costs (including the co-pay), or need transportation, etc. may get help through the Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program (call 1-888-599-1073 or visit LBCHP.com

Lifesaving Tip

Don’t wait to get your mammogram. If you, like many women, are afraid that a mammogram might reveal cancer, the CDC reports that even when breast cancer is detected at Stage III, the survival rate is 72 percent.