That C-WORD has had an undeniable way of psychologically altering the thought processes of each generation in its passing, leaving a path of destruction and broken hearts, as though it were a tornadic weather phenomenon, that just doesn’t stop pounding its catastrophic residual power on humanity.
“Each year approximately 70,000 people between the ages of 15 – 39 are diagnosed with Cancer… and nearly 1,200 women under age 40 die from Breast Cancer.” –Young Survival Coalition
“In 2011, Cancer was the leading cause of disease- related death to adolescents and young adults.” -National Cancer Institute
In the U.S. Breast Cancer is the 2nd most common Cancer in women after Skin Cancer… Each year about 230,000 new cases are reported in women, according to The National Cancer Institute.
The idea that Cells can just wake up one day and change their metabolic behavior, becoming avid enough to procreate Cancer Cells is an affirmation of reality in the 21st century that has become too normalized.
During the month of October the world stands up to Breast Cancer and every Ywoman knows, that whether you or a woman you know has been affected by the residue of that C-strom… And although finding a cure always seems to be at the helm of reality, ever ending treatments seem to be the only answer. It is fair to say that no one is exempt from the wrath of this storm’s force and for that very reason The Y Life, knew it was our duty to share wisdom from the Doctor called the Angel Doctor by her patients.
Dr. Vilma Biaggi is an American College of Radiology Accredited Breast Imaging Specialist who is so innately passionate about empowering and educating women, in order to regain their health. Breast health is personal for Dr. Biaggi, you see her mother and aunt both passed away of breast cancer and during her early medical carrier, it became clear to her… breast and women’s health was her mission! Dr. Biaggi emits a sense of calm and serenity the second you enter her at home styled practice, where every measure is taken to avoid a sensation of ‘medical’ anything frankly! From the avoidance of florescent lighting, to the piano perched in the waiting area, alongside living room inspired decor… it’s as though Dr. Biaggi is there to coach and encourage her patients through their new reality.
Her mission is simple… Knowledge gives comfort and the Doctor is meant to give confidence…
So we spent a morning with Dr. Biaggi, picking her brain about an issue rarely spoken about, Millennial Breast Health. During our visit a few of her patients introduced themselves to me, it seems one thing was continually brought to my attention… Breast Health and the C-Word scares women more than anything. You could hear that faint trepidation tickling its way through their veins as if it were a paper cut, so minuscule, but ever so present; and yet, I could feel this intense sense of strength and serenity emitting from the Doctor onto each of her patients… as it rolled onto them as the crisp morning sun does onto our skin at dawn, you could sense their beating hearts absorb her courage.
There is a lot to take in, so grab a cup of tea and take in every ounce of the knowledge we have coming your way!
Doctor let’s start off with Breast Cancer Prevention… What can women in their 20s do, to prevent from being at high risk when they are in their 40s and 50s? “If we knew, we would have the secret of the Millennium…” So she periodically processed my question and continued, “There isn’t specifically anything, but knowledge makes the whole difference, because a young person with no family history of Breast Cancer ever in their families, is not in the same category of a 20 year old that had strong penetration of family history…”
“As far as prevention, there is nothing specific that would prevent it, sometimes we talk about the deodorant, the wire under the bra.. all of these are theories that don’t hold any water. Essentially it’s your background and the knowledge about your genetic making, is what is so important.”
Doctor Biaggi explained that one of the most important aspects is to know, if you have family history of Breast Cancer and have those details handy, i.e. what type of Cancer your family had, the penetration within your family, and the characteristics of the Cancer. Y so you ask? Well, “there are many Cancer’s that are familial, which defer from the genetic. The genetic, there is a genetic mutation that is 70% more likely to have incidence of having Breast Cancer, those are 7 out of 10 people that are BRCA positive or genetically positive, that will have Breast Cancer, very high number.”
What is BRCA? Several different tests exist to look for mutations in one of the genes and check for all possible mutations in both genes, via DNA. “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.” –Cancer.gov
“Then there is the familial, the familial is certain type of characteristics of Breast tissue that is passed into families of proliferative lesions… we have three types of lesions: the benign lesions that remain benign , the proliferative lesions that are benign and have the ability to turn malignant and the definitely malignant lesions.”
We all understand that the circumstances that can turn a benign lesion into a malignant one is the million dollar question, but we just had to know what we could be doing right now to help our future selves… “everything that is bad for your health can be that factor, meaning lack of rest, poor diet, poor hygiene (the combination of diet, sleeping, exercise), chronic stress and other diseases that debilitate the immune system, may contribute to those proliferative lesions that are benign, to have a change of behavior. This is on the young ones. It differs a little bit for women that pass menopause, Menopausal Cancers have a different behavior and a different nature, and a different implication on the lifespan of the patient.”
One of the greatest lessons I learned from Doctor Biaggi is that any Cancer, but especially the Genetic Cancers, by definition, are halted and treated best by early diagnosis.
She explained that everyday we are learning more and more about Cancer and in terms of Breast Cancer, she went on to diagram how nobody really dies of Breast Cancer, you see whoever perishes to this disease, is actually of distant metastasis, which is the invasion of cancerous cells from its original tumor, then spreading into other distant organs like the lungs, in the liver, in the bones or lymph nodes. “When we generalize Breast Cancer, we are being very unfair to the word, because there is such simple Breast Cancer that is so manageable and there is such complicated Breast Cancer, but the bottom line for the bad, for the good and for the indifferent is EARLY DIAGNOSIS.”
But, she continued with some very wise advice for Millennial women… “early diagnosis comes with knowledge. Fear is not a tool of safety, knowledge is! When you are educated enough to find a point of reference, to know what your genetic making is, and then create a network of health around you, meaning your internist, your gynecologist, then you recognize what your normality is and then you establish a relationship with a person who is going to guide you through the years, through different moments. Hormonal Moments, stressful moments, pregnancy moments, lactating moments, all of those things are landmarks in women’s changes in life and when you have a point of reference with a physician who will guide you and explain what normality is for you, is how you walk through normality and you recognize abnormality very timely.”
The thought of younger and younger women being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, not only scares me, but makes me wonder if younger women who are diagnosed have higher chances of having more aggressive Breast Cancer, or are they aided, by still being in the early stages of their lives? “It is very rare, for a young woman to have [Breast Cancer], there are some exceptions, which we don’t know if they are not genetically related and they are young… but, since we exactly don’t know what the cause is, the prevention becomes unknown.”
We have all read the articles in our monthly subscriptions or on morning television to be skeptical, when it comes to SOY Milk, so I asked Dr. Biaggi, how she felt about SOY from her research to its correlation with Breast Cancer… “To a certain extent this is true, nothing in excess is good. Soy milk is a form of protein, that is a good protein, but in excess, they call them the Phytoestrogens, this product is an estrogen. See sometimes when we combine Soy Milk, Edamame, Protein Bars with Soy… it’s excessive and we don’t really know how much we are taking of it and how much is converted in our body in excess of estrogen. So nothing in excess is intelligent”
By routine medical standards getting your first mammogram happens sometime in your mid-to-late 30s, depending on family history and present conditions, but she did explain that some young women experience dramatic breast changes… changes like: one is much bigger than the other one and it was not like this before, not around the menstrual cycle or pregnancy and that could be cause for concern.
Now when it comes to the younger patients, like us, Dr. Biagi always starts with an ultra- sound, Y? “The mammogram gives you a very open picture, a general map of your breast, but it does not give you details. The only details it gives you, the mammogram, before the ultra-sound is early calcifications that are delegated to malignancies, the only one. When the breast is dense you need an ultrasound, so that is usually what I do, and in the process of giving the first ultrasound, I design a simple design of the breast, with a simple anatomy, so they can be looking at what you are seeing, and I have patients touch themselves, to examine themselves.”
Interesting how sometimes, just putting something like an ultrasound into a simple diagram can be so helpful to a younger woman, and I followed-up by asking the Doctor about self-examination, it’s importance and if that is a step Millennial women should be taking in order to get to know our bodies better? “Absolutely! Absolutely! Because when you have a question and it persists, it is much better for you to rule it out… But there is no one better than you, to know your body and that is by self- examination.”
We hear so many numbers and sometimes don’t know how they apply to us, do Millennial and younger women really have a standing, when it comes to research? So I asked the Doctor if she thought young women are underrepresented in research, when it comes to Breast Cancer? “No. Not necessarily, because, it is not expected. However, the genetic testing has brought up a new type of Breast Cancer that is more prevalent in young women and this is what we know the most. So I don’t think they are forgotten. Now more than the research, we need to work on the physician to be balanced enough, first of all not to ignore if there is something or on the other hand not to be over zealous. There are young women getting biopsies and all kinds of unnecessary stuff, when they are so young. They need to be educating themselves…”
In these shoes… Wondering what should I Do?… Dr. Biagi suggests always asking Y? Y is it that you are seeing this in me, Y are you recommending this, Do I have Cysts, Do I have Fibronomas…
Let’s face it, Millennial women have Baby on the brain, and the last thing you want to ever hear, besides the C_WORD, is that having a family is not an option for you. That is the reality for some young women after Breast Cancer though, and the physchological impact on their family and future, is extensive..
“There are two types of situations, one of the girls that know their family is very prevalent to Breast Cancer, they elect not to know and go through life and have their babies and have a very close surveillance, that’s why I have them come every 6 months. They need to know their breasts very well and this along with pelvic ultrasounds, is what they choose to do. Then there is another group that choose to know, if there is so much penetration in their family, they choose to do the genetic testing, and if they are positive they know they have a certain time limit, in which they are going to have their babies. They program their elective prophylactic subcutaneous mastectomy and bilateral oophorectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy (meaning the tubes will also go), because the tubes share the same similarity than the ovaries. Those girls will never have a baby.”
But, even for young women in those shoes, modern medicine has been able to make leaps and bounds, for instance surrogacy with their own frozen eggs is always a possibility to keep in mind… “The person who has never had a chance to have a baby, and she wants to, she has the opportunity to freeze her eggs, use a surrogate. But, I will think that when we appreciate the precious gift of life of a young woman, I would not risk pregnancy to create another life, at the expense of that existing life. And that is what I tell them, we evaluate their life as is, what your life could be and the life that should be, and these are the things that your physician will work with you on, for quality of life.”
If you have self examined your breasts and feel as though, you would like further information or consultation, do your research and gain that so very important knowledge Dr. Biaggi insisted Millennial women invest in…