Women around the world – our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends - live in fear of the words “You have breast cancer.” And statistics suggest that 1 in 8 will hear them at some point in her life. From diagnosis to treatment, the journey of breast cancer can be a devastating and confounding experience. This October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, join survivors, activists, physicians and spiritual healers in the battle against this disease, where our three greatest weapons are Education, Community, and Hope.

Education: In order to understand her diagnosis, a woman must first understand the disease itself – beginning with risk. While it’s true that 13% of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer over the course of a lifetime, there are several factors that determine a woman’s risk, including:

  • Gender. Being a woman is the most significant risk factor for developing breast cancer.
  • Age. Absolute risk (the likelihood of developing the disease) increases with each decade. Women in their 30’s are at 0.43% risk, with likelihood increasing to women in their 60’s at 3.7%.
  • Lifestyle. Women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day are 25% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-drinkers. Bodyweight is also a major factor; The American Cancer Society recommends maintaining a balanced weight throughout life. Other contributing factors include hormones, diet, and exercise.
  • Family History. Women with a mother, sister, or daughter who have had breast cancer are at higher risk of developing the disease.

A common symptom of breast cancer is a painless, hard lump in the breast – but because these lumps don’t always occur in cases of cancer, and different abnormalities may indicate different ailments, it’s vital to have yearly mammograms and consult your physician. Other common symptoms of breast cancer include pain, swelling, or irritation in the breast or nipple.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are that you’ve already experienced one of its most debilitating side-effects: fear. Fear of treatment, fear of recurrence, and fear of missing out on everyday life can easily overwhelm you – but anxiety shouldn’t guide you on the path to wellness and healing. It may not seem realistic to overcome your fears – and it’s impossible to ignore them. The key is to manage them: Make sure your doctor communicates with you in a way that’s comfortable and proactive. Continue to educate yourself on procedures and expectations. For example, many oncologists recommend acupuncture to relieve pain, nausea, anxiety, and stress. And, most importantly, find your community. There are several resources available – Breastcancer.org, for example, offers support groups and online discussions – where you’ll find people who are facing similar challenges. You’ll meet multiple survivors and their loved ones, learn tips on navigating the world of holistic medicine, and share life-affirming ideas on how to face breast cancer.

Thanks to the dedication, contributions, and research of so many people determined to fight this disease, technological breakthroughs have provided a slew of new and exciting options for the treatment of breast cancer. This lineup - ranging from surgery to chemotherapy, radiation to hormonal therapy – can be mind-boggling . . . but it’s also our greatest source of hope.

This October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, reach out to the women you love with Breast Cancer: The Path of Wellness & Healing. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, and not only for your loved ones: Proceeds from this revolutionary DVD program benefit premiere breast cancer institutions Breastcancer.org and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, promoting research, education and community, and inspiring hope.