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Approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. When it comes to preventing breast cancer, some risk factors, such as family history, can't be changed. Yet, research shows that lifestyle changes can decrease your risk. Here are some good breast-healthy behavior to cultivate through each decade of your life.
It might sound obvious, but a good way to learn your breasts’ look and feel and catch changes is by monitoring your own breast. Perform a breast self-exam each month, two to three days after your period or on the same date each month if you no longer have periods. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends to get a clinical breast exam at least every three years during your 20s.
Having a history of early onset breast cancer in your immediate family may be a reason to talk to your doctor about whether you need step up screening. You may also want to consider getting tested for BRCA1, BRCA2 and other genetic mutations that predispose a woman to breast cancer.
If you have children, breast-feed them for at least six months. Studies have shown that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater her protection against breast cancer. In fact, producing milk constantly limits the ability of breast cells to act abnormally.
If you are considered high risk of breast cancer based on your family history, talk to your doctor about whether you are a good candidate for chemoprevention, which involves the consumption of drugs to reduce the risk of cancer developing.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important since obesity is a crucial risk factor for breast cancer. Circulating hormones are metabolized in fat and result in the presence of tumor inducers. To know if your weight is correct you must calculate your BMI (body mass index). Along with a well-balanced diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables), you could incorporate antioxidant-rich superfoods into your diet for extra cancer-fighting properties.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. However the decision about whether to begin screening before age 45 is one that a woman should make with her health care provider.
Where you're screened for breast cancer makes a difference in the accuracy of the test. For example, Karl J. Krapek, Sr. Comprehensive Women’s Health Center at Saint Francis offers accurate same-day mammogram results, follow up diagnostic testing and surgical consults on the same day as your scheduled mammogram, if needed.
Breast cancer becomes much more common after age 50, so schedule an annual mammogram and clinical exam if you are under 54 and every 1 to 2 years starting at age 55, for as long as you are in good health.
Avoid (or limit) hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Though HRT is used to relieve menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes, it also increases your breast cancer risk and chances it will be discovered at a more advanced stage.
Your 60s and Older
Continue getting annual mammograms and annual clinical exams. The older you get, the more fatty your breasts, and the easier it's to read mammograms.
Get moving. Exercise regularly to keep your body active and thus help clean the arteries and oxygenate the body. To really have a preventive action, a minimum of four hours a week is recommended. The type of activity varies by age, constitution and personal hobbies (do something you like!). The ideal exercise is aerobics without being competitive.
Eat healthy. Maintain a healthy diet based on fiber, vegetables, fruits and proteins due to its high content of nutrients and compounds. It’s advisable to use olive or canola oil and consume fish (rich in Omega 3), as well as whole grains (barley, whole wheat or wild rice), legumes, bread, bran and oatmeal. Likewise, it’s very important to avoid sugars.
Avoid harmful habits such as smoking or abusing alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes increased fat and is a liver toxic. Both reasons can increase the risk for breast cancer, so moderate your intake to ten grams a day.
No matter your stage of life, the Karl J. Krapek, Sr. Comprehensive Women's Health Center at Saint Francis takes a holistic approach to their preventive care, diagnosis, and breast cancer treatment for women. Click here to learn more on how their team of professionals will help you during your cancer experience.