7 WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF BREAST CANCER
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of malignant cells (cancer cells) in the breast. It can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women impacting over 2.1 million women each year.
In order to improve breast cancer outcomes and survival, early detection is critical. There are two early detection strategies for breast cancer: early diagnosis and screening.
How is it diagnosed?
Early diagnosis strategies focus on providing timely access to cancer treatment by reducing barriers to care and/or improving access to effective diagnosis services.
Screening consists of testing women to identify cancers before any symptoms appear. Breast cancer screening tools include:
- Mammography-is the process of using low-energy x-rays to examine the human breast for
diagnosis and screening. Helps in early detection of breast cancer.
2. Clinical breast exam-it’s done by the healthcare provider. The provider visually checks your breasts while you are sitting up and physically examine your breast while you are lying down.
3. Breast self –exam-it involves checking your breasts for lumps or changes.
What are early warning signs of breast cancer?
Symptoms of breast tumors vary from person to person. Some common, early warning signs of breast cancer include:
- Skin changes, such as swelling, redness, or other visible differences in one or both breasts
- An increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s)
Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- General pain in/on any part of the breast
- Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast.
How does breast cancer develop?
Breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or blood to other parts of your body.
What factors are associated with increased risk of breast cancer?
- Family history of breast cancer-if you have a 1st degree relative who has had breast cancer you could be at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer-if you have already been diagnosed with your risk of developing it again on the same or the other breast is higher.
- Gender-women are more at risk of developing breast cancer than men.
- Age-chances of getting breast cancer increases with age.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding-women who have not had or had a full-term pregnancy after the age 30 have an increased risk of breast cancer. Women who have children breastfeeding may slightly lower their breast cancer risk
- Obesity-being overweight is associated with increased risk of breast cancer because the extra fat cells makes estrogen which can cause extra breast cell growth. This extra cell growth increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy-women who take hormonal therapy combined with estrogen and progesterone to treat signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Alcohol consumption-alcohol can limit your livers ability to control blood levels of hormone estrogen which in turn increases risk of breast cancer.
- Menstrual history – women who started menstruating (having periods) younger than 12 years have a higher risk of breast cancer. Same is true for women who through menopause when they are older than 55 years.
- Smoking cigarettes -it’s linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger and premenopausal women.
How can we reduce your risk of breast cancer?
- Exercise –inactivity can raise breast cancer risk. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy– To reduce the risk of breast cancer, use the lowest dose of hormone therapy possible for the shortest amount of time. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy.
- Maintain a healthy weight-if you need to lose weight, ask your doctors about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Healthy weight helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Limit alcohol intake –drink alcohol in moderation; limit the amount of alcohol intake to no more than 3 to 4 drinks per week, if you choose to drink.
- Choose a healthy diet– it’s best to eat a highly plant dominated diet such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat. Avoid processed food.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding-Studies have shown that breastfeeding, especially for more than 18 months can reduce breast cancer risk.
- Breast self-exam –making changes in your daily life help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening and when to begin. If there is a new change, lump or other unusual signs in your breast, talk to your doctor promptly
Breast awareness can’t prevent breast cancer, but it may help you to better understand the normal changes that your breasts undergo and identify any unusual signs and symptoms.
- Medical-surgical nursing textbook by Brunner and Suddarth 12th edition.
- WHO. Https://www.who.int>preventionbreastcancer-who.
- Mayo clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org
Veronica Wanja – Nursing Officer, Imara Mediplus Hospital