Breast cancer is the leading cancer for women in the US. Every two minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Statistics show that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. This statistic affects all women equally: You have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer regardless of your employment, financial, or social status.
AskPatty is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness for the month of October and is sharing the following tips to help educate our readers about important Breast Cancer prevention and awareness information.
1) Create an Early Detection Plan
Early detection provides the greatest possibility for successful treatment. When breast cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
An early detection plan enables you to be proactive about your health by reminding you to do monthly breast self-exams and schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms.
The best way to fight breast cancer is to have a plan that helps you detect the disease in its early stages. Visit EarlyDetectionPlan.org to create your own plan to receive reminders to do breast self-exams, and schedule your clinical breast exams and mammograms based on your age and health history.
2) Practice Healthy Habits
Leading a healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk factors for breast cancer and other illnesses.
Although you cannot prevent cancer, some habits that can help reduce your risk are to maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active, eat fruits and vegetables, do not smoke, and limit alcohol consumption. Learn more about these healthy habits and more at NationalBreastCancer.org.
3) Perform A Monthly Self Breast Exam
Regularly examining her own breasts allows a woman to become familiar with how her breasts normally look and feel and can help her more readily detect any changes that may occur.
The American Cancer Society and other organizations suggest that self exams can be performed regularly to help women detect changes in their breasts that they might need to call to their physician's attention.
Beyond your own personal exams, you should also have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40. Learn the five steps of a breast self exam here at BreastCancer.org
Just being a woman is the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer. According to BreastCancer.org, there are about 190,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year in American women.
4) Breast Cancer Can Occur In Men, Too.
More than 2,000 men are diagnosed each year.
According to Cancer.gov, men may develop breast cancer at any age, but it is usually detected in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer.
Radiation exposure, high levels of estrogen, a family history of breast cancer, and inherited gene mutations can increase a man’s risk of breast cancer.
Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to that for women with breast cancer when their stage at diagnosis is the same. Breast cancer in men, however, is often diagnosed at a later stage. Cancer found at a later stage may be less likely to be cured.
Men with breast cancer usually have lumps that can be felt. Men should also examine their breasts, and check with your doctor if you notice a change in your breasts.
5) Know Your Risks
Talk to both sides of your family to learn about your family health history.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer.
Women with close relatives who've been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. If you've had one first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is doubled.
The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is received from a person’s parents. Hereditary breast cancer makes up about 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancer. Some mutated genes related to breast cancer are more common in certain ethnic groups.
According to BreastCancer.org, your risk of breast cancer goes up as you get older. About two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older.
Additionally, if you've already been diagnosed with breast cancer, BreastCancer.org says you're three to four times more likely to develop a new cancer in the other breast or a different part of the same breast. This risk is different from the risk of the original cancer coming back (called risk of recurrence).
Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
6) Talk To Your Doctor About Mammograms.
Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours has had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.
The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. Mammography is still the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer.
• If you are a woman age 40 to 49 at average risk, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
• If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every two years.
You may also choose to get them more often.
7) Know What is Normal For You
Many women may find that their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture. Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others.
In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it is probably normal breast tissue.
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern and should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition. Visit komen.org to learn more about benign breast conditions.
8) Know What is NOT Normal For You
The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common signs are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple, and/or nipple discharge.
It is best to see a provider if you are unsure about a new lump (or any change). Although a lump (or any change) may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind that it was checked.
If you have had a benign lump in the past, don’t assume a new lump will be the same. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but it is best to make sure.
According to Komen.org, you should see your health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes:
Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
Change in the size or shape of the breast
Dimpling or puckering of the skin
Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
New pain in one spot that doesn't go away
9) Don't Smoke
Smoking is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women. Research also has shown that there may be link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
A study published in early 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that smokers have a 24 percent higher risk and former smokers have a 13 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer than non-smokers.
If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, use every resource you can find to help you quit.
10) Avoid Becoming Overweight
Obesity raises the risk of breast cancer after menopause, the time of life when breast cancer most often occurs. Avoid gaining weight over time, and try to maintain a body-mass index under 25.
According to information at FredHutch.org, being overweight also can increase the risk of the breast cancer coming back in women who have had the disease.
Among its top tips for breast cancer prevention, the website encourages women to embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods. Eat lean protein such as fish or chicken breast and eat red meat in moderation, if at all. Eat whole grains. Choose vegetable oils over animal fats.
11) Keep Physically Active
Physical activity, even when begun later in life, reduces overall breast-cancer risk by about 10 percent to 30 percent. All it takes is moderate exercise like a 30-minute walk five days a week to get this protective effect.
Exercise is such an important part of daily life that the United States Department of Agriculture added it to ChooseMyPlate.gov, the U.S. government's guide to healthy eating.
According to Cancer.gov, the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer incidence has been extensively studied, with over 60 studies published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Most studies indicate that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women
12) Breastfeed Your Babies
For young women: Breastfeed your babies for as long as possible. Women who breastfeed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Breastfeeding for longer further reduces the risk.
Even though we know breastfeeding babies gives them a healthy start, “Research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. And, breastfeeding longer than the recommended six months can provide additional protection,” says Rachel King, a health education specialist in MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center.
According to data presented at Komen.org, in a pooled analysis of data from 47 studies, mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total (combined duration of breastfeeding for all children) of one year were slightly less likely to get breast cancer than those who never breastfed.
Mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of two years got about twice the benefit of those who breastfed for a total of one year. Mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of more than two years got even more benefit.
Breastfeeding is good for your health as well as your baby’s.