October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer does not discriminate by age, color or even gender. It starts as an overgrowth of cells called a tumor, which can invade the breast or spread into other parts of the body, including the liver, brain and bones.
Facts to consider:
- For every 100 women diagnosed, 1 man is also diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Patients who are diagnosed early (before the cancer spreads) have a 5-year survival rate of 99%.
- All women should have clinical breast exams at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year after age 40.
Regular screenings are extremely important in detecting breast cancer before it spreads. A few minutes of discomfort during a mammogram or screening could uncover lifesaving information about your breast health and your risk for developing breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more treatment options will be available to you, and the more promising your chances for recovery will be.
Although anyone can potentially develop breast cancer, research has shown that there are ways to decrease your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise: carrying around extra body weight may increase your risk of breast cancer. Exercise lowers your estrogen and insulin levels, combats obesity, and helps your immune system fight tumors.
Limit your alcohol intake and don’t smoke: The more you drink, the higher your risk for breast cancer. If you regularly drink more than one alcoholic beverage daily, consider decreasing your intake and supplementing with folic acid to counteract some of the risk factors
associated with alcohol. Smoking is linked to many different kinds of cancer- be safe, not sorry. Talk to your doctor as soon as you are ready to say goodbye to tobacco and hello to a healthier you.
Trust your body and relax your mind: Breastfeed if you can after having a baby. Studies show that nursing reduces your risk of developing breast cancer. Opt for safer hormones and dosage forms if you use hormone therapy for menopause, and take the necessary vitamins and minerals to promote healthy estrogen metabolism. Pay attention to your emotional health, too. Enjoy activities that help you “de-stress,” and keep a positive attitude.
To learn more about breast cancer, risk factors, mammograms, and treatment options, visit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Schedule your annual breast exam to be sure that any signs of breast cancer are detected early.