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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about

learning to dance in the rain.”

-Vivian Greene

What is Cancer, Exactly?

According to the National Cancer Institute, “cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and are safe to invade other tissues”. Cancer can begin to develop when DNA becomes damaged, and can no longer repair itself. Cancer starts in just one cell and then further mutates other cells around it. There are several factors that contribute to cancer development which include lifestyle behaviors such as, age, smoking, diet, exercise level, immunity strength, environmental exposure, sun exposure and of course, genetics.


Offspring inherits one gene from each parent so each person will have two copies of every gene. There is a 50% chance that a parent’s genetic trait will be passed on to their child.

The BRCA I and BRCA II genes play a big role in the evolution of breast cancer. These genes are originally designed to suppress the development of breast cancer by repairing DNA breaks. Sometimes however, these genes do not function properly, and mutate. A small percentage of people estimated to 1 in 400, or 0.25% of the population carry mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Women with these mutations have a higher lifetime risk of the disease. It’s estimated that 55 – 65% of women with the BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer before age 70. Approximately 45% of women with a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.


The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2020 are:

  • About 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.


Nutrition plays a big role in any illness. Cancer is the number two leading cause of death in the US and breast cancer is the number two cause of death among women.

A big preventative measure that may reduce your incidence of developing any cancer or chronic illness is diet.

I’m sure we all know by now that vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins are great components for a healthy lifestyle. Food groups and portion sizes are also important elements to understand, and have a basic knowledge of in order to proceed with a balanced diet. For detailed information regarding portion sizes, please see my March blog post.

Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, salmon and pork are good options for lower calorie, high-quality protein. If you prefer to eat a vegetarian diet try eggs, beans, lentils, seeds and nuts as an alternative. You will still get some high-quality protein in addition to some healthy fats.

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese provide a good source of vitamin D and calcium. If you prefer alternative dairy sources try hemp seed milk, and fortified almond milk.

Always choose whole grains over refined grains when you can. Grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and amaranth are good sources of fiber. Most cereals are also fortified with varied vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamin, D, phosphorus and other B vitamins.

Dark, leafy green vegetables and fruits are good sources of antioxidants. They offer rich nutrients, fiber and can help ward off obesity and heart disease. The USDA site ChooseMyPlate advises to make half your plate fruits and veggies. For more details regarding nutritional choices, please see my July blog post.

Early Screening & Detection:

The American Cancer Society recommends the following:

  • Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.

  • Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

  • Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.

  • All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening – what the test can and cannot do.

What About The Men?

It's important to call attention to the small percentage of men that are diagnosed with breast cancer each year as well. According to The American Cancer Society, approximately 2,700 men in 2019 developed breast cancer. Sadly, men are not taught to screen for breast cancer the same way women are taught. There can also be a stigma related to this disease. Men may notice some changes around their breast but don’t say anything because they may feel embarrassed or emasculated since it is mostly associated as a women's issue. This can lead to later stage diagnoses and poorer outcomes for men battling this disease. Please let your doctor know right away if you have noticed any changes. There are support groups available to help men deal with any feelings of anxiety or loneliness surrounding the disease.

Can I Do Anything To Prevent Breast Cancer?

There is no magic combination of foods or yoga postures (although yoga can help) that can prevent the disease outright BUT there are a few things you can add or limit in your life to help prevent the development of breast cancer (or any cancer, really).

  • Maintain your weight at a healthy level. Please check out this link to find out what Assessing a Healthy Weight means for you.

  • Exercise is always on the list. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week. This will help lower your blood pressure and maintain more hormonal balance.

  • Don't drink alcohol excessively. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. The following are reference beverages that are one alcoholic drink-equivalent: 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol).

  • Manage stress. It’s important to try to work in a 10 minute routine of guided meditation, a walk in the woods (or just standing with your bare feet on the ground), breathing exercises or mantra work to help ground you throughout your day. Stress and anxiety can cause internal inflammation and inflammation is the root to all chronic disease. I’m not saying that stress will give you cancer but having a nice daily routine is certainly a step in the “prevention” category. For more details about stress management, please refer to my April blog post.

  • Sleep. A vital part of our overall health and one that is ignored the most. Sleep helps rejuvenate your body and mind. It helps with cognitive function, hormone balance and mood among many others benefits. Please aim for at least 8 hours a night. Make this a priority for yourself. Humor me and try it for a week and see how you feel. A way to practice is to set a “wind down” time for yourself about 45 minutes before you go to sleep. Do some restorative yoga poses to help lower your heart rate. Listen to some free sleep stories online or play peaceful music to help you relax. If your mind is still racing about the day, try counting your breath with a 1 for the inhale and 2 for the exhale until you reach 10...and repeat. This will help to focus your mind on your breath and not on your day. Try taking a hot shower to help lower your body temperature, add in some favorite essential oils for a “spa-like” experience. I’m rather partial to lavender or peppermint myself.


The exams are low-dose x-rays that can help detect the presence of cancer. It is good practice to get your screening every year (as applies to you and as recommended by your doctor) for early stage cancer detection. Research has indicated that these tests are very helpful but they are not perfect.

Not all mammograms are considered equal. There are different types of imaging, 2D (2 dimensional) and 3D (3 dimensional). 3D imaging has been found to detect more cancers and better for women with dense breast tissue compared with 2D imaging. Not all breast screening centers offer 3D imaging, and it may have an additional out-of-pocket cost. 2D images are still recommended for early detection if 3D is not available.

Self Screening:

Self examinations are screenings you can do on your own in front of your mirror, lying down or in your shower to feel for any lumps or new changes in texture or color to your breasts and nipples. It’s advised to make this a monthly habit (check on the 2nd or 3rd day after your period) so you can become familiar with your breast and begin to recognize any changes that may develop. Please report any change to your doctor. Please refer to the chart below for help getting started.

Silver Lining:

There is some good news in all this and it’s worth mentioning that less than 10% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a BRCA mutation. Also, with early detection, such as monthly self breast exams and mammograms every 12 months, the vast majority of breast cancer cases can be successfully treated.

Information Sources For You To Explore:

Please remember that you are NEVER alone in this fight and you are stronger than you think. If you are not ready to discuss any issues with your family or friends, please reach out to support groups. They are always there for you if you choose.

And remember….Health starts from the inside out. To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at

A Little About Me:

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I am interested in transplant, renal and gastrointestinal issues. All the information presented within this blog is backed by the credible sources cited below.


About Breast Cancer. (2019, September 24). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

Breast Cancer in Young Women. (2019, July 09). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

Home. (2018, January 29). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

Learn More About Breast Cancer at Susan G. Komen®. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

What Is Cancer? (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

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Cathleen Winter
Cathleen Winter
04 окт. 2020 г.

Mary thank you for this months informative post! Breast cancer awareness month has a personal place in my heart. I lost a dear friend to breast cancer. Working with cancer patients is how my career began. Thought the years I have worked with many breast cancer patients providing nutritional support durning their treatment. Although advancements in treatment has progressed over the past 30 years, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in woman.

As noted in this post, cancer begins to develop when gentic coding (DNA) becomes damaged. Diet and lifestyle choices are factors associated with the body's ability to regulate inflammation and genetic coding.

Go beyond modifying our dietary choices with the food groups and dive deeper…

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