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Know Your Health

In addition to our programs, UBCF aims to be a helpful resource for those who want to learn more about breast cancer, providing our community with knowledge, service providers, experts, and more. Know your health, know your options.

Six steps everyone should take to help prevent cancer.

  • Get screened
  • Get screened

    Regular screening and self-examination for certain cancers increases your chances of discovering cancer early—when treatment is more likely to be successful. Screening should include your skin, mouth, colon and rectum. If you’re a man, it should also include your prostate and testes. If you’re a woman, add your cervix and breasts. You can also examine yourself for cancers of the skin, breasts and testes. Be aware of changes in your body—this may help you detect cancer early, increasing your chances of successful treatment. If you’re suspicious of changes, see your doctor.

  • Don’t use tobacco
  • Don’t use tobacco

    All types of tobacco can put you on a collision course with cancer. Not using tobacco, or deciding to stop using it, is one of the most important health decisions you can make. Avoiding tobacco in any form significantly reduces your risk of cancers of the lungs, esophagus, voice box (larynx), mouth, bladder, kidneys, pancreas and, in women, the cervix.

    In the United States, cigarette smoking is the cause of about 80-90 percent of all cases of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. It’s also responsible for about a third of all cancer deaths. Every time you smoke a cigarette, you inhale dozens of carcinogenic substances that can cause cells to become cancerous. Tar in smoke also forms a sticky brown layer on the lining of your lungs and air passages. This layer traps carcinogens you’ve inhaled.

    Smoking cigars or using chewing tobacco isn’t safe either. Compared with nonsmokers, people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Chewing tobacco also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, cheeks and gums.

    Even if you don’t smoke, reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke. Each year, about 7,333 people die of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

  • Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods
  • Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods

    Though making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee you won’t get cancer, it can help reduce your risk. Research suggests that about 30 percent of cancers are related to issues of nutrition, including obesity.

    The American Cancer Society recommends that you:

    Choose most foods you eat from plant sources. Eat at least 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit each day. Also eat other foods from plant sources, such as grains and beans, several times a day. Plant foods contain dozens of minerals as well as fiber and other beneficial substances scientists are just discovering. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are excellent food choices that may reduce your risk of various cancers. And green and dark yellow vegetables, beans, soybean products and cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage — may help reduce your risk of colon and stomach cancers.

    Limit fat. Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-fat foods, particularly those from animal sources. High-fat diets may increase the risk of cancer of the prostate, colon, rectum and uterus.

    Don’t drink alcohol. If you drink, do so in moderation. Your risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly. Even a moderate amount of drinking may increase your risk. That’s true particularly if you smoke. The impact of alcohol and tobacco on your risk level may be even greater when they’re used together, significantly increasing your risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus and larynx. Some studies also suggest that alcohol use could put you at greater risk of breast cancer.

    If you’re a man, drink no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. If you’re a woman, drink one or fewer. Pregnant women shouldn’t drink alcohol at all. Twelve ounces of regular beer counts as one drink or one alcohol serving. So does 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Each of these contains about 14 grams of alcohol—about half an ounce.

  • Protect Yourself from the Sun
  • Protect Yourself from the Sun

    Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable. Although repeated exposure to X-rays or contact with certain chemicals can play a role, sun exposure is by far the most common cause of skin cancer. Most skin cancer occurs on parts of the body that usually aren’t covered with clothing when you go outside—your face, hands, forearms and ears. Nearly all skin cancer is treatable if detected early, but it’s best to prevent it in the first place. Try these tips:

    Avoid peak radiation hours. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at its peak between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Minimize or avoid being outside during these hours. Stay in the shade. If you go outside, minimize your sun exposure by staying in the shade.
    Cover exposed areas. Wear light-colored, loosefitting clothing that protects you from the sun’s rays. Use tightly woven fabrics that cover your arms and legs, and wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers your head and ears.

    Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Make sure your sunscreen has a sun protection factor of at least 15. Check the label to be sure it blocks out UVA and UVB radiation, two types of ultraviolet light that can damage your skin. And because the ingredients in some sunscreens might degrade, check for an expiration date. Make sure your sunscreen is waterproof if you’ll be swimming, and reapply it regularly. And if you’re allergic to para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), an ingredient in many sunscreens, choose a sunscreen that doesn’t contain PABA. Use generous amounts of sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours, especially if you’re sweating or in the water.

    Avoid reflective surfaces. Snow and water can reflect much of the sun’s damaging rays. Don’t use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps. These can damage your skin as much as the sun. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.

  • Stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay active and maintain a healthy weight.

    Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly also play roles in preventing cancer. Obesity may be a risk factor for cancers of the prostate, colon, rectum, uterus, ovaries and breast. Physical activity is an important part of controlling your weight. And it may lower your risk of some kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week. Your exercise session can include such low-key activities as brisk walking, raking the yard or even ballroom dancing. Safe exercise programs exist for just about everyone. Your doctor or physical therapist can help design one for you.

  • Consider other possible cancer-fighting strategies.
  • Consider other possible cancer-fighting strategies.

    Research on other strategies—including the use of certain natural or synthetic substances (agents)—to fight cancer is ongoing. You may want to consider some of these strategies. Some of the agents under investigation include:

    Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). Commonly called designer estrogens, these drugs — such as tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and raloxifene (Evista)—may help decrease the risk of breast cancer in some high-risk women.

    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs, which include aspirin and ibuprofen, are being studied alone and in combination with other drugs for their potential to help protect against colon cancer.

    Calcium. Calcium compounds also may reduce your risk of colon cancer. Taken in excessive amounts, however, calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer—so moderation is advised.

    Retinoids. These chemicals, which are similar to vitamin A, may help protect against cancers of the cervix, lungs, mouth and bladder. Other cancer prevention strategies include being aware of risk factors in your home such as radon gas; or where you work such as radiation or certain industrial chemicals. Take steps to reduce exposure to these substances.


Although many risk factors can be avoided, some, such as inherited conditions, are unavoidable. Still, it is helpful to be aware of them. It is also important to keep in mind that not everyone with a particular risk factor for cancer actually gets the disease; in fact, most do not. People who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer can help protect themselves by avoiding risk factors whenever possible and by getting regular checkups so that, if cancer develops, it is likely to be found early. Get the facts and remain informed.

The value of these preventive strategies is becoming clearer. In addition to helping reduce your risk of cancer, most of them can also help you avoid other serious diseases including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Unfortunately, nothing guarantees a cancer-free life, but by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can increase your chances.

Self Breast Exam

Early diagnosis is the key to surviving breast cancer. Regular breast screenings are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it is easiest to treat. All women should perform monthly breast self-examinations. It is suggested that women between age 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year. Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women over the age of 40 are at the highest risk for breast cancer.

In The Shower

The value of these preventive strategies is becoming clearer. In addition to helping reduce your risk of cancer, most of them can also help you avoid other serious diseases including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Unfortunately, nothing guarantees a cancer-free life, but by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can increase your chances.

In The Mirror

Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead and look for any changes in contour of each breast, a swelling, dimpling of skin, or changes in the nipple.   Then, rest palms on hips and press down firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breast will not match exactly—few women’s breasts do. Regular inspection shows what is normal for you and will give you confidence in your examination.

Lying Down

To examine your right breast, put a pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head—this distributes breast tissue more evenly on the chest.

Lying Down

With your left hand, fingers flat, press gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face.Begin at outermost top of your right breast for 12 o’clock, then move to 1 o’clock, and so on around the circle back to 12. A ridge of firm tissue in the lower curve of each breast is normal.Then move in an inch, toward the nipple, keep circling to examine every part of your breast including nipple. This requires at least three more circles.

Now slowly repeat the procedure on your left breast with a pillow under your left shoulder and left hand behind head. Notice how your breast structure feels.

In The Shower

Check each breast one at a time.

Use your right hand fingers to check your left breast and your left hand fingers to check your right breast.

With your fingers flat against the breast, press firmly in small clockwise circles.

In The Mirror

Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead and look for any changes in contour of each breast, a swelling, dimpling of skin, or changes in the nipple.

Lying Down

Lie flat on your back and extend your left arm above your head. Using your right hand, hold your index, middle and ring fingers to-gether like a Boy Scout salute.

Place the three-finger salute on the outside of your left breast region and press down gently.

Lying Down

Move your fingers in a slow, circular motion that gradually spirals toward the left nipple while focusing for any lumps or irregularities.

Look carefully for changes in the size, shape, and contour of each breast, e.g., puckering, dimpling, or changes in skin texture.

Glossary of
Breast Cancer Terms

Back To Glossary


A pocket of pus that forms as the body’s defenses attempt to wall off infection-causing germs.


The colored tissue that encircles the nipple.


Removal of fluid from a cyst or cells from a lump, using a needle and syringe.

Atypical hyperplasia:

Cells that are both abnormal (atypical) and increased in number. Benign microscopic breast changes known as atypical hyperplasia moderately increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Average risk (for breast cancer):

A measure of the chances of getting breast cancer without the presence of any specific factors known to be associated with the disease.


Not cancerous; cannot invade neighboring tissues or spread to other parts of the body.

Benign breast changes:

Noncancerous changes in the breast. Benign breast conditions can cause pain, lumpiness, and other problems.


The removal of a sample of tissue or cells for examination under a microscope for purposes of diagnosis.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes:

The principal genes that, when altered, indicate an inherited susceptibility to breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. These gene alterations are present in 80 to 90 percent of hereditary cases of breast cancer.

Breast density:

Glandular tissue in the breast common in younger women, making it difficult for mammography to detect breast cancer.

Breast implants:

Silicone rubber sacs, which are filled with silicone gel or sterile saline, used for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.


Breast Self-Examination. The American Cancer Society says that women can use BSE to know what is normal for them.


Small deposits of calcium in tissue, which can be seen on mammograms.


A general name for more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells grow out of control. Cancer cells can invade and destroy healthy tissues, and they can spread through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system to other parts of the body.


Cancer that begins in tissues lining or covering the surfaces (epithelial tissues) of organs, glands, or other body structures. Most cancers are carcinomas. Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that is confined to the cells where it began, and has not spread into surrounding tissues.


The use of drugs or vitamins to prevent cancer in people who have precancerous conditions or a high risk of cancer, or to prevent the recurrence of cancer in people who have already been treated for it.


Structures located in the nucleus of a cell, containing genes.

Clinical breast exam:

A physical examination by a doctor or nurse of the breast, underarm and collarbone area, first on one side, then on the other.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning:

An imaging technique that uses a computer to organize the information from multiple x-ray views and construct a cross-sectional image of areas inside the body.

Computer-aided diagnosis (CAD):

The use of special computer programs to scan mammographic images and flag areas that look suspicious.

Core needle biopsy:

The use of a small cutting needle to remove a core of tissue for microscopic examination.

Cyclic breast changes:

Normal tissue changes that occur in response to the changing levels of female hormones during the menstrual cycle. Cyclic breast changes can produce swelling, tenderness and pain.


Fluid-filled sac. Most breast cysts are benign.

Back To Glossary

Diagnostic mammogram:

The use of a breast x-ray to evaluate the breasts of a woman who has symptoms of disease such as a lump, or whose screening mammogram shows an abnormality.

Digital mammography:

A technique for recording x-ray images in computer code, which allows the information to enhance subtle, but potentially significant, changes.


Channels that carry bodily fluids. Breast ducts transport milk from the breast’s lobules out to the nipple.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS):

Cancer that is confined to the ducts of the breast tissue.

Excisional biopsy:

The surgical removal (excision) of an abnormal area of tissue, usually along with a margin of healthy tissue, for microscopic examination. Excisional biopsies remove the entire lump from the breast.

False negative (mammograms):

Breast x-rays that miss cancer when it is present.

False positive (mammograms):

Breast x-rays that indicate breast cancer is present when the disease is truly absent.

Fat necrosis:

Lumps of fatty material that form in response to a bruise or blow to the breast.


Benign breast tumor made up of both structural (fibro) and glandular (adenoma) tissues.

Fibrocystic disease:

See Generalized breast lumpiness.

Fine needle aspiration:

The use of a slender needle to remove fluid from a cyst or clusters of cells from a solid lump.

Frozen section:

A sliver of frozen biopsy tissue. A frozen section provides a quick preliminary diagnosis but is not 100 percent reliable.

Generalized breast lumpiness:

Breast irregularities and lumpiness, commonplace and noncancerous. Sometimes called “fibrocystic disease” or “benign breast disease.”


Segment of a DNA molecule and the fundamental biological unit of heredity.

Genetic change:

An alteration in a segment of DNA, which can disturb a gene’s behavior and sometimes leads to disease.

Back To Glossary

Higher risk (for breast cancer):

A measure of the chances of getting breast cancer when factor(s) known to be associated with the disease are present.

Hormone replacement therapy:

Hormone-containing medications taken to offset the symptoms and other effects of the hormone loss that accompanies menopause.


Chemicals produced by various glands in the body, which produce specific effects on specific target organs and tissues.


Excessive growth of cells. Several types of benign breast conditions involve hyperplasia.

Incisional biopsy:

The surgical removal of a portion of an abnormal area of tissue, by cutting into (incising) it, for microscopic examination.


Invasion of body tissues by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

Infiltrating cancer:

Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes under the arm, or other parts of the body.


The body’s protective response to injury (including infection). Inflammation is marked by heat, redness, swelling, pain and loss of function.

Intraductal papilloma:

A small wart-like growth that projects into a breast duct.

Invasive cancer:

Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes under the arm, or other parts of the body.

Laser beam scanning:

A technology being studied in research for breast cancer detection that shines a laser beam through the breast and records the image produced, using a special camera.

Lobes, lobules, bulbs:

Milk-producing tissues of the breast. Each of the breast’s 15 to 20 lobes branches into smaller lobules and each lobule ends in scores of tiny bulbs. Milk originates in the bulbs and is carried by ducts to the nipple.

Localization biopsy:

The use of mammography to locate tissue containing an abnormality that can be detected only on mammograms, so it can be removed for microscopic examination.


Surgery to remove only the cancerous breast lump; usually followed by radiation therapy.

Lymphatic system:

The tissues and organs that produce, store, and transport cells that fight infection and disease.

Back To Glossary


Coarse calcium deposits. They are most likely due to aging, old injuries, or inflammations and usually are associated with benign conditions.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

A technique that uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.


State of being cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

Mammary duct ectasia:

A benign breast condition in which ducts beneath the nipple become dilated and sometimes inflamed, and which can cause pain and nipple discharge.


An x-ray of the breast.


The examination of breast tissue using x-rays.


Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast as possible).


Infection of the breast. Mastitis is most often seen in nursing mothers.


The time when a woman’s monthly menstrual periods cease. Menopause is sometimes called the “change of life.”

Menstrual cycle:

The monthly cycle of discharge, during a woman’s reproductive years, of blood and tissues from the uterus.


Tiny deposits of calcium in the breast, which can show up on a mammogram. Certain patterns of microcalcifications are sometimes a sign of breast cancer.


A change in the number, arrangement or molecular sequence of a gene.

Needle biopsy:

Use of a needle to extract cells or bits of tissue for microscopic examination.

Nipple discharge:

Fluid coming from the nipple.

Nonpalpable cancer:

Cancer in breast tissue that can be seen on mammograms but that cannot be felt.

One-step procedure:

Biopsy and surgical treatment combined into a single operation.


A condition of mineral loss that causes a decrease in bone density and an enlargement of bone spaces, producing bone fragility. Certain treatments for breast cancer can impact a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis.


Use of the fingers to press body surfaces, so as to feel tissues and organs underneath. Palpating the breast for lumps is a crucial part of a physical breast examination.


A doctor who diagnoses disease by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Permanent section:

Biopsy tissue specially prepared and mounted on slides so that it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist.


Naturally occurring chemicals found in plants that may be important nutrients for reducing a person’s cancer risk.

Positron emission tomography (PET scanning):

A technique that uses signals emitted by radioactive tracers to construct images of the distribution of the tracers in the human body.

Prophylactic mastectomy:

Surgery to remove a breast that is not known to contain breast cancer, for the purpose of reducing an individual’s cancer risk.

Back To Glossary


A unit of measure for radiation. It stands for radiation absorbed dose.


Energy carried by waves or by streams of particles. Various forms of radiation can be used in low doses to diagnose disease and in high doses to treat disease.


A doctor with special training in the use of diagnostic imaging such as CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound, to image body tissues and to treat disease.


A measure of the likelihood of some uncertain or random event with negative consequences for human life or health.

Risk factors (for cancer):

Conditions or agents that increase a person’s chances of getting cancer. Risk factors do not necessarily cause cancer; rather, they are indicators, statistically associated with an increase in likelihood.

Sclerosing adenosis:

A benign breast disease that involves the excessive growth of tissues in the breast’s lobules.

Screening mammogram:

Breast x-ray used to look for signs of disease such as cancer in people who are symptom-free.


The image produced by ultrasound.

Specimen x-ray:

An x-ray of tissue that has been surgically removed (surgical specimen).

Stereotactic localization biopsy:

A technique that employs three-dimensional x-ray to pinpoint a specific target area. It is used in conjunction with needle biopsy of nonpalpable breast abnormalities.

Surgical biopsy:

The surgical removal of tissue for microscopic examination and diagnosis. Surgical biopsies can be either excisional or incisional. (See Excisional biopsy and Incisional biopsy.)


A hormonally related drug that has been used to treat breast cancer and is being tested as a possible preventive strategy. Women on this medication should have regular ultrasounds of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) because of potential changes there.


A diagnostic technique in which an infrared camera is used to measure temperature variations on the surface of the body, producing images that reveal sites of abnormal tissue growth used especially as a screening method for detection of breast cancer


An abnormal growth of tissue. Tumors may be either benign or cancerous.

Tumor markers:

Proteins (either amounts or unique variants) made by altered genes in cancer cells that are involved in the progression of the disease.

Two-step procedure:

Biopsy and treatment done in two stages, usually a week or two apart.


The use of sound waves to produce images of body tissues.


A high-energy form of radiation. X-rays form an image of body structures by traveling through the body and striking a sheet of film. Breast x-rays are called mammograms.

Back To Glossary


A type of massage in which finger pressure on the specific bodily sites described in acupuncture therapy is used to promote healing, alleviate fatigue, etc.


A Chinese medical practice or procedure that treats illness or provides local anesthesia by the insertion of needles at specified sites of the body.

Energy work:

A therapy that initiates healing and well being. Suited well for persons who are depressed, fatigued, anxious, etc..


Identifying with principles of holism in a system of therapeutics, especially one considered outside the mainstream of scientific medicine, as naturopathy or chiropractic, and usually involving nutritional measures. Holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body.


A nontraditional system for treating and preventing disease, in which minute amounts of a substance that in large amounts causes disease symptoms are given to healthy individuals. This is thought to enhance the body’s natural defenses.

Lymphatic Massage:

Massage pertaining to the lymph.


The rubbing or kneading of parts of the body especially to aid circulation, relax the muscles, or provide sensual stimulation.

Naturopathic medicine:

Encompasses a wide range of therapies that can be very helpful for those with breast cancer, or those who wish to prevent it. In the field of herbal medicine, there are many plants that can enhance normal immune function and have antitumor effects, or that can reduce toxicity and side effects caused by conventional treatments, without interfering with their action. Guidance in nutrition and food choices, as well as nutritional supplements, can encourage the growth and health of normal cells, while weakening cancer cells. And homeopathic remedies can stimulate the body’s own ability to fight or prevent cancer, without interfering with conventional treatments. Naturopaths are licensed as physicians in 16 states, and with their additional training in pharmacology, they have the knowledge necessary to help their clients make the most effective and safest use of natural therapies for breast cancer. – Dr. Valerie Nix MHW

Nutritional counseling:

A session with a certified nutritionist who will identify which foods, vitamins, herbs, and health practices are best for a specific individual in order to obtain optimal health and longevity.


Of or relating to foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or hormones; “organic eggs”; “organic vegetables”; “organic chicken”


A powerful yet gentle form of energy that is healing in nature. It is used to alleviate stress, reduce pain, and promote relaxation and healing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. During a session the Reiki practitioner places their hands on or above the person's body while they are fully clothed, either seated or lying down. Reiki works in conjunction with all conventional medical and therapeutic techniques to improve the effectiveness of treatments, while reducing side effects and decreasing healing time. – Barbara France, MHW


A form of therapeutic massage in which pressure is applied with the thumbs and palms to those areas of the body used in acupuncture. Also called acupressure.


Something added to a treatment regime to make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.

Tai chi:

a Chinese martial art and form of stylized, meditative exercise, characterized by methodically slow circular and stretching movements and positions of bodily balance.


a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.

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