October is here! That means Halloween prep and pumpkin patches and sipping hot cider while dressed in plaid. Aside from those wonderful, comforting signs of autumn, October also brings with it another very important cause: Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise funds and research the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure for breast cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime as a result of genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both and it’s important to be proactive about your own breast health.

Regular screenings are key to early detection of breast cancer. It’s also recommended to perform self-exams monthly, and to schedule a mammogram at the recommended time. During a self-exam, nipple tenderness and appearance change, changes in skin texture, nipple discharge, and feeling a lump in the breast are all worth speaking about with your healthcare professional. Beyond self-exams, a mammogram is an x-ray used to examine breast tissue, and can often detect a lump before it can be felt. I’ve had two and they are nothing to be afraid of - total piece of cake! The recommended age for mammograms without high risk factors is 40, with additional screenings every one or two years, or earlier as advised by a doctor with higher risk factors.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “exercise boosts the immune system and helps you to keep your weight in check. With as little as three hours of exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day, a woman can begin to lower her risk of breast cancer.” Whether you power walk, surf, or practice Studio LB, consistent physical activity is a great way to be proactive regarding breast health. A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk for breast cancer, so get moving! Maybe check out a Making Strides Walk this month or a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to double down on physical activity and raising funds and awareness.

I won’t dive in to diagnosis, BRCA mutations, stages/types, or treatment here but will say that we have likely all been affected by a friend or loved one battling breast cancer. I will suggest reading up on some common myths as described by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to eliminate some fear around the environmental choices we make. October is a great time to educate yourself, take a proactive stance on early detection, and try to protect your breast health through behavioral change (stop smoking, seriously!).