Breast Cancer Prevention: Ways to Reduce Your Risk
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. While it’s possible for anyone to develop breast cancer, women over the age of 55 are at the highest risk of developing this disease.
Seeing the word breast cancer can bring shivers down the spine of any woman (or even man), and it is natural and acceptable to feel that way. Almost everyone have heard or seen, or know someone who has been affected by it. But these days stories about breast cancer has been good and positive at least, treatments have improved and lots of new treatments have been employed to combat the condition. Now we know more ways than ever on how to combat and even prevent the risk of you getting the disease.
But before we delve into the prevention of breast cancer, let’s have a little knowledge on the causes and symptoms of breast cancer.
Causes of Breast Cancer
A woman’s breast contains fats, lots of lobules, connecting tissues, and also tiny glands that produce milk for breastfeeding, and a tiny duct that transports the milk to the nipple. When the body cells generates uncontrollably, the excessive cells is what causes the breast cancer. The cancer usually starts from the internal lining of the milk ducts or the lobules that produces the milk, and eventually spread to other parts of the body.
Although the main cause of breast cancer has been unclear to scientists worldwide, there are other factors that make it happen:
- Genetics: If a close relative suffers or suffered from breast cancer, there is a higher risk for you. There are certain genes that some women possess that make them more susceptible to getting the disease.
- Dense breast tissues: Women who have high density breast tissues have a higher breast cancer risk than others that have less dense breast tissues.
- Body weight: Women who are obese or overweight have a higher level of developing breast cancer, this might be due to the high level of estrogen in the body, or too much sugar intake.
- Alcohol consumption: A higher intake of alcohol everyday seems to raise breast cancer risk. Research has shown that women who take more than 3 alcoholic drinks a day have more chance of developing breast cancer.
- Exposure to radiation: Radiation exposures maybe in work place or by accident increases the risk of someone developing breast cancer. Also getting exposed to radiation treatment for another cancer that is not breast cancer can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Estrogen exposure: Exposure to high levels of estrogen for a period longer than normal will likely increase your breast cancer risk. This could happen maybe because you started your periods earlier than normal or you entered into menopause later than normal, but during those times you are exposed to higher levels of estrogen, and it increases the chances of you developing breast cancer.
- Age: A woman’s breast cancer risk increases as she ages. Study shows that at age 20 the risk of a woman developing breast cancer is 0.6% but at age 70 the figure increases drastically to almost 4%.
- Hormone treatment: Using HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or oral pills for birth control have been linked to increase the risk of a woman developing breast cancer, because those treatments spike up the estrogen level.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast or armpit. Other symptoms of breast cancer include, pain in the armpit, breast that does not show changes as the menstrual cycle come and go, rash on or around one of the nipples, a discharge from the nipple that might contain blood, a change in the size or shape of the breast, peeling of the skin on the breast or nipples.
Not all lumps are cancerous lumps though, so when you discover a lump on your breast or armpit, it is advisable to contact your doctor or visit the closest emergency room.
7 Tips to reduce the risk of breast cancer
- 1. Quit smoking: Study have shown a link between smoking and breast cancer, especially in women who haven’t hit menopause. To lower your breast cancer risk and having a good health overall it is advisable for you to quit smoking.
- 2. Be physically active: Being physically active will surely help you in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer. It is recommended to at least have up to 150 minutes of mild aerobic activities in a week.
- 3. Breast feed: It is important to note that breast feeding helps to reduce the level of estrogen in the body, which helps reduce the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. That is why Brest feeding is beneficial to both the baby and the mother.
- 4. Avoid exposure to radiation: There has been confirmed evidence linking radiation with breast cancer risk in women. So try your possible best to always avoid situations that will put you in contact with such radiation. If your occupation exposes you to radiation, it is Paramount you adhere to all the laid down protective guidelines.
- 5. Reduce the dose and duration of your hormone treatment: Taking hormone replacement therapy for a long time can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. If your hormone therapy is for menopausal symptoms then you should ask your doctor for other treatment options for you. Hormone therapy increases estrogen level in the body, and excess estrogen increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- 6. Limit alcohol intake: The more alcohol you drink the greater your breast cancer risk. So it is advisable for women to reduce their consumption of alcohol to not more than a drink a day, or even stop altogether.
- 7. Control your weight: It is very important to watch and control your weight. Being overweight or obese, especially after menopause, increases the risk of you developing breast cancer.
Performing Self-Checks at Home
Breast self-exams help you find noticeable lumps in your breast at home, either before or in between mammograms. You should perform a self-exam in:
- The shower
- In front of a mirror
- In bed, laying down
Visually examine your breasts, and use your three middle fingers to press down with pressure across your breast. Repeat this laying down, as your breast tissue will spread out further. If you find a lump — don’t jump to panic. 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.
Mammograms can show hidden abnormalities in breast tissue, which means you should still have routine mammograms later in life even if you complete breast self-checks at home.
When To Have Your First Mammogram
A mammogram is a breast cancer screening exam that provides an X-ray image of your breasts. They can either be done in 2D or 3D, an even more advanced and detailed option. Mammographies have two purposes: to detect changes in the breast through screenings and to explore a specific area of the breast through diagnostics.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following updated guidelines when determining when to start regular mammogram screenings:
- Women between 40 and 44 can start screening with a mammogram every year
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or continue yearly mammograms
- Breast cancer screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years
Higher Risk Patients
Additionally, women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from mammogram screenings before the age of 40 — making it important to know your family history and risk factors. If you are at high risk, you should consult with your doctor on how often you should do diagnostic testing for early detection.
It is important we follow some or all of this tips to avoid the risk of developing breast cancer, it is also advisable we examine our body to check for signs and symptoms of breast cancer, if any of such signs exist, it is best you consult your doctor.
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