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3 Things Young Women Can Do About Breast Cancer Right Now

10/02/2015 12:34 EDT | Updated 10/02/2016 05:12 EDT
Nobilior via Getty Images

It's breast cancer awareness month. Love it or hate it, it's here.

At Rethink Breast Cancer, we think about the needs of young women going through breast cancer all day. These women are more than aware of the disease and benefit from our helpful resources, supportive community and change-making advocacy efforts for access to new treatments and care.

But what about all the other young women out there who don't have breast cancer? Women of average risk...like you? What do you need to be aware of during breast cancer awareness month (and all year round)? With all the media coverage in October on our cause, young women may feel freaked out, panicking that breast cancer is going to strike at any second. We want young women to keep calm and focus on three easy things you can do to stay on top of your breast health:

1. Make it about you! Personalized medicine is where it's at.

This time of year, a lot of broad general statistics are out there. And they are often misinterpreted. You hear "one in nine women will develop breast cancer" and instantly fear that at this moment in time, you or one of your eight female friends are about to get diagnosed...right now. That stat is actually "lifetime risk," meaning by the time you are 90. So rather than worry, we want women to understand their own personal risk for getting breast cancer.

Start by booking an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can use a risk assessment tool -- basically a series of questions like "has anyone in your family had breast cancer?" -- to give you a more clear picture of your individual risk. The score will estimate your risk of developing breast cancer for a period of time, such as in the next five or 10 years, and in your lifetime.

Coveting bespoke clothing? A bespoke breast health plan is actually within easy reach. Once you know your personal risk, you and your doctor can come up with a risk reduction plan and have an informed conversation about when you should start screening such as mammography. Most women under the age of 50 do not benefit from mammography screening but if you are "high risk," you may want to start as early as age 30.

2. Don't over-check. Be breast aware instead.

You should know what your breasts regularly look and feel like. If you notice a change, get it checked out by your doctor. That's being breast aware.

It sounds easy but there's still a lot of confusion out there, especially for young women.

Years ago women were told to check their breasts regularly -- there were cards and diagrams showing exactly how to do this. But evidence now shows that most women who discover their own breast abnormalities do so without a regular breast self-exam. The distinction between "awareness" (knowing your body so that you can notice and report changes) and "checking your breasts" (regularly, systematically feeling for lumps) is subtle and can be confusing. We want you to be in tune with your body, but don't stress about doing it the 'right' or 'wrong' way, or how often you're doing it. In fact, over-checking may lead to false alarms and unnecessary biopsies, which can lead to extra anxiety and tax the healthcare system.

If you notice a change in your breasts (check out the signs and symptoms here), stop, take a breath... and then pick up the phone. While chances are that it's nothing, don't let a work deadline or the latest episode of Game of Thrones get in the way of being proactive with your health. Make the call to book an appointment with your doctor.

Plus we have an app for that! We know you're living hectic, busy lives so Rethink's Your Man Reminder app was designed to break through that clutter and remind you to take a quick moment to think about your breast health.

3. Exercise is always a good idea! Young women need to get moving.

We all know that we should be regularly exercising, but there are far too many excuses to skip it. They need to stop and we need to get active! Studies show that physical activity can reduce your risk of breast cancer (and just about every other major disease). While every little bit of exercise helps, to see a real benefit in terms of reducing your risk of breast cancer, you need to engage in moderate to high-intensity exercise (as in heart racing and sweating) and often (30-45 minutes four to five times a week). The earlier your start, the better the overall impact and more likely it will become a lifelong priority. That's why we want to help young people make it a habit, to shake up their routines and make exercise a priority.

You wouldn't go to sleep without brushing your teeth, right? We want it to feel just as unnatural to go to sleep if you haven't moved all day long. Midnight run anyone? Booty calls work too!

We hope that with these three tips will help young women feel less confused, less anxious and more empowered to stay on top of their breast health during breast cancer awareness month...and always. #breastlove

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