Here’s the hard truth: The biggest risk for breast cancer is simply being a woman. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking charge and remain fearless of how to handle this health issue that has impact many women worldwide.
The first step is to take control of your own body,” says Linda R. Aboody, MD, director of radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge. “Don’t be passive and leave it to your doctor. Have a conversation about your personal risk factors. We’re in an age of individualized medicine which can be more tailored to your profile.” Besides screenings (ask your doctor what’s right for you), here’s what else you can do to reduce your risk.
1. Know Your Breasts
Continue to perform self-breast examinations and be sure to follow up with your health care provider if you detect any changes. A combination of self-examination, clinical examination (by your health care provider), mammogram, or thermography may be needed to determine the source of the change.
Mammograms use a very low dose of radiation to detect masses less than 5 mm in diameter and are generally useful for early detection for women over age 50. Breast thermography uses very sensitive infrared cameras to detect malignant changes in tissue as well as inflammation that can detect “hot” areas up to three years before a cancer is able to be diagnosed.
2. Do a reality check.
Even if you have no family history, you’re not in the clear and still need regular mammograms. “Average-risk women still make up the majority of breast cancer patients,” says Aboody. “Avoid the mentality that you’re safe because ‘I don’t have it in my family’ or ‘I do all the right things.’” If you do have close family members who’ve had breast cancer or a history of other types of cancers on either side of the family, such as ovarian, consider genetic counseling.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Reduce your risk of breast cancer by making some lifestyle choices in these areas:
Increase intake of fiber-rich foods, legumes, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Women who consume high-fiber diets have a 30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk over those with a low-fiber diet. Aim for 25 to 30 g of fiber per day.
Eat a low-fat diet (20 percent of your calories) including omega-3 fatty acids.
Eat a healthy diet. Studies link a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Avoid processed foods, white flour, alcohol, and white sugar. These foods strip the body of essential vitamins and minerals and contribute no benefit to your overall health.
If you drink alcohol, limit how much you drink. Research has shown that women who have 2 or more alcoholic drinks daily have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who drink only 1 drink a day or not at all.
Eliminate chemical cleaners from your home.
4. Know your family cancer history—even your dad's
About 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary, passed from one generation to the next via a variety of mutated genes. Your father's family counts as much as your mother's. And look at your family's history of other kinds of cancer, too. Men can carry some of the same aberrant genes, such as BRCA1 and 2, that up the risk of not only breast cancer but also ovarian cancer in women, pancreatic cancer in men and women, and early prostate and testicular cancers in men. Also, multiple diagnoses on either side of your family can be a clue to a hereditary link.
5. Take charge of your health
Although there's no sure-fire way to prevent breast cancer, certain lifestyle habits are linked to a lower risk of it developing or returning.
Be physically active. The evidence is growing that regular physical activity helps reduce your breast cancer risk. It also helps keep your weight under control, which may also lower your risk. Follow an exercise routine that provides 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week. cancer risk. A healthy diet also helps you stay at a healthy weight.
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