Women’s battle against breast cancer is still evident up to this day. Despite many medical innovations, thousands of women still get diagnosed with the disease each year; and most of them are women on the older side of the spectrum.
Moreover, there is still no definite cure against the disease as its cause remains to be unknown. Many clinicians believe that many factors are at play, such as:
- Underlying medical condition
- Trauma or injury
- Old age
Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, there is still much you can do to reduce your risk and ultimately prevent breast cancer from developing.
This October, to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let us join hands and help every mom, sister, and grandma become aware of this illness.
Below is a brief discussion on breast cancer basics and how to prevent it from developing in you or to your loved one.
Breast Cancer: What Is It?
Breast cancer refers to a malignant disease in which some of your cells turn abnormal, causing them to grow in number uncontrollably.
There are different kinds of breast cancer, depending on where the malignant cells originated. They can spread and infect neighboring cells outside the breast, such as the lymphatic system.
Breast cancer can affect women and men of all ages. However, it is more likely to present itself when a woman reaches her 40s or 50s.
Like many diseases, breast cancer has different signs and symptoms in the body. It varies from person to person. But some of the most common and notable physical manifestations of the disease include:
- A sudden appearance of a lump in the breast or near the armpit
- Itchiness, redness, or flaky skin around the nipple area
- Dimpling of the breast
- Nipple discharge
- Pain in the nipple or some part of the breast when pressed
- Any changes in breast size and shape
Fortunately, deaths due to breast cancer have lowered significantly since 2013. However, breast cancer awareness and prevention are still better than a cure.
Breast Cancer Prevention: How to Reduce Your Risk?
Anything that predisposes you to develop breast cancer should be prevented. Learning your personal risks and getting the word out to others is the only way you can tip the odds towards your and other women’s favor.
Doctors found out several ways on how each woman can lower their risk of breast cancer. Be proactive and practice these preventive and protective techniques as early as now.
Research has found out a strong correlation between the occurrence of breast cancer to overweight and obese women.
Being obese, especially during or after your menopausal period, increases your risk of having the disease because fat tissues release too much estrogen hormone.
Moreover, overweight women also have a higher insulin level in their blood, predisposing them yet again to breast cancer and other forms of diseases.
Battle obesity by engaging in regular workout sessions in a gym or at your own home. You can start with a simple 30-minute walk every morning, then pump it up to a more vigorous workout.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet almost always go hand in hand. It can be quite hard to achieve a healthy body without doing these complementary practices together.
To control your weight, you should also mind what goes into your mouth and body system. Some healthy diet tips include:
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lower your trans and saturated fat consumption
- Whole wheat and whole grains only
- Avoid fast foods and processed meats
- Stick to lean and skinless meats
- Avoid too much carbonated and caffeinated drinks
Avoid Alcohol and Cigarette Smoking
It is proven repeatedly that alcohol and nicotine consumption does NOT have any benefits to one’s body. Their only contribution is to expose your body to various medical conditions, including breast cancer.
A single bottle of beer every day already increases your risk of having breast cancer by 10%. What more for two to three bottles a day?
Limit Birth Control Usage
Doctors always advocate safe sexual intercourse. However, some contraceptives that use hormones can increase a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer.
Some examples of these birth control practices include:
- Birth control pills
- Birth control shot
- Intrauterine device
- Skin patches
- Vaginal rings
- Birth control implants
These contraceptive techniques contain hormones, which fuel breast cancer development when used for a long time.
There is still much to learn regarding this area, but many clinicians suspect that not breastfeeding can increase one’s likelihood of having the disease. It is important to continuously breastfeed for more than a year or so once your breast starts producing milk.
Limit the Use of Hormonal Therapy
Doctors sometimes prescribe hormonal therapy to women who experience symptoms of menopause. They also help prevent osteoporosis. There are three types of hormonal therapy, namely:
- Combined hormone therapy - uses both progesterone and estrogen. Using this therapy for four years or more increases your risk of developing advanced-stage breast cancer.
- Bioidentical hormone therapy – uses natural hormones that are said to be safer than combined HT.
- Estrogen therapy – has a lower risk than combined hormone therapy but still predisposes the user to breast cancer.
With limited research, there is no telling which of these hormonal therapies are the safest to use. What’s important is to avoid them if you can, or limit their dose or duration.
Aside from breast cancer, hormonal therapies also expose women to other kinds of diseases like stroke, blood clots, and heart illness.
Lastly, part of a woman’s breast cancer awareness fight is to have annual (or quarterly) checkups and mammogram appointments with your GP.
Health organizations recommend women to undergo early screening once they reach the age of 40 to 44. At the same time, those in the 45 to 54 age brackets can undergo annual mammogram procedures.
Be open and talk with your doctor about your genetics and lifestyle habits. This would help them determine what examination you need to undergo and the interval of your checkups.