Aunts of mine have had it. Cancer has affected so many people around me and yet, it’s still something I ignore. I don’t like to think about it too much. It’s not that I avoid the subject of breast cancer purposely – it’s almost subconscious. Almost. Death isn’t something I like to think about more than I already do and breast cancer (whose death rates have gone down 39% from 1989 to 2015) and life go hand in hand in my mind, whether or not there are more survivors now than ever. In all of my avoidance tactics the one thing I can’t avoid? October. Breast cancer awareness month. Maybe it’s because I’m young, perhaps it’s because I’m slightly selfish and don’t want to confront others mortality (or my own), but October bothers me. I can’t go about avoiding the issue of cancer. It’s dawned on me though; you cannot change what you refuse to confront.
Last year (at the age of almost 18) I went to a seminar focused on the correlation between nutrition and breast cancer. Yes, I just said I avoid any mention of breast cancer like the plague, and yet I went to this seminar. I see the hypocrisy there as well. The seminar’s audience was mostly made up of middle-aged women. After all, fewer than 4% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 40, so it only makes sense that’s who you’d find in the audience. That bothered me though. When your nutrition and lifestyle play such a huge role in preventing breast cancer, or any cancer quite frankly, shouldn’t more young people be attending such talks? It’s as though people seem to think they can do all the damage they’d like to themselves during their younger years and not see it catch up to them later on in life. That being said – people would have to even know they’re doing damage to their bodies and are putting themselves at a higher risk of cancer.
The education just isn’t there. People spend so much time discussing how breast cancer is in your genes (yet 90% of women diagnosed don’t have a genetic risk factor) or to “make sure to get a mammogram” that they completely forget about nutrition in my opinion. All throughout this month when you turn on the tv and listen to the news, a health expert will come on to discuss how many times you should get a mammogram in the next ten years, but how many times will they lengthily discuss nutrition? By all means be as aware of your body as possible, but how do we as a society sit back and forget about one of – if not the – most important piece of the puzzle? How do we avoid having to enjoy a healthy lifestyle as much as I avoid having to even think about breast cancer? Most people haven’t a clue why they were diagnosed with cancer, but there are specific risk factors that all of us can take into consideration, especially young people. Exposure to chemicals and radiation, obesity, alcohol use, tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, and high animal product intake. The more education that’s put into place on these matters from a younger age, the more women (and men) who won’t be diagnosed with breast cancer later on. For all of the pink ribbons on sugary cereal boxes and drill bits used in the fracking industry, I’d just like to see our “awareness” be more focused on actual “prevention.” Is that too much to ask for?