Are you dreaded of the term “breast cancer?” While the occurrences of breast cancer are increasing day by day across the world, it is imperative for you to be aware of the preventive steps to stay safe from the risks of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the breasts. Right after skin cancer, occurrences of breast cancer are the most common and highly diagnosed amongst women all around the world. While breast cancer can occur in both women as well as men, maximum cases have been reported in women around the world. Ample support for the research and awareness of breast cancer has helped in the creation of high-end advances that boost the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of this deadly condition.
Due to the latest advancements in the field of breast cancer awareness and prevention, the overall survival rate of patients with breast cancer has increased significantly. Even the number of deaths linked with breast cancer is declining steadily –mostly due to factors like earlier detection and diagnosis, a better understanding of the disease, and a personalized approach to the cancer treatment. However, the factor that highly contributes to the overall advancements is the knowledge of the preventive steps that can help in reducing the overall risks of developing breast cancer in the first place.
Types of Breast Cancers
There are different types of breast cancers out there. Some are:
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in situ)
- LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma in situ)
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Male breast cancer
- Recurrent breast cancer
For knowing the preventive steps, you should also be aware of the common symptoms associated with breast cancer. Here are some:
- Changes in the appearance, size, or shape of the breast
- Thickening or a breast lump feeling different from the nearby tissues
- Changes to the skin over the breasts including dimpling
- Inverted or crusted nipple surface
- Flaking, crusting, scaling, or peeling of the pigmented area of the skin that surrounds the breast skin or the nipple (areola)
Pitting or redness of the skin over the breast –appearing like an orange skin.
What are the Risk Factors?
The risk factor associated with breast cancer is any risk that would enhance the chances of your body having breast cancer. However, having one or more risk factors related to breast cancer does not necessarily imply that you would end up having breast cancer. Most women who have breast cancer might have no risk factors other than just being a woman.
Some of the factors that tend to increase the risk of developing breast cancer include the following:
- Being a woman: The mere fact that you are a woman increases the overall risk of developing breast cancer than in men.
- Aging Factors: The overall risk of getting breast cancer increases as you tend to age.
- Personal History: In case you have a personal history of having breast complications, then you have higher chances of developing the condition. Previously, if you had undergone a biopsy revealing atypical hyperplasia or LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma in situ) of the breasts, then you have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.
- Family History: In any woman in your family including grandmother, mother, sister, or daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer, especially at a young age, then also your chances of getting this condition might increase. However, a majority of women out there having breast cancer did not have any family history of the disease.
- Inherited Genes: There are specific gene mutations as well that tend to increase the risks of breast cancer –passing from the parents to children. Some of the most common gene mutations are known as BRCA1 & BRCA2.
- Radiation Exposure: In case you have received radiation treatments to the chest while you were young, the risk of getting breast cancer increases.
Some of the additional risk factors of breast cancer include obesity, getting periods at quite an early age, getting menopause too late, having the first child at a later age, drinking alcohol, and so more.
Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer
While it is natural to feel dreaded by the term “breast cancer,” it is important to note that medical science has advanced rapidly in the recent times. As such, there are several advanced treatment options out there that help with the easy diagnosis as well as treatment of the disease. Moreover, the experts also give away a list of preventive methods that are effective in keeping you safe from breast cancer.
Here are some ways to prevent the risks of developing breast cancer:
- Look Out for Your Breast Density: Looking for the density of the breast is a recent way to protect your body from breast cancer. When you tend to have more tissues in addition to fat in the breasts –quite common in younger women, it might make it difficult to detect cancer in a typical mammogram. Both breast tissues and tumors are known to appear white, while fat appears darker. More importantly, when you have denser breasts, it enhances your chance of developing breast cancer by as much as six times. While experts are still unaware of the exact reasons, one possibility is that there serves to be no standardized method of measuring breast density. Therefore, the views of experts tend to be highly subjective.
Even when you tend to have a lower breast density, it is recommended to go for regular checkups from time to time. In case you have a higher breast density, there is no way to reduce the same (breast density decreases with age). As such, you can go for an MRI or ultrasound as the screening methods during breast checkups.
- Get Up & Moving: Exercise helps in preventing cancer in several ways. Firstly, it helps in controlling your body weight. A study conducted by ACS revealed that women who had gained around 20-30 pounds since the age of 18 years had 40 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer in comparison to women who had not gained over 5 pounds.
As far as breast cancer is concerned, you can blame it on estrogen –responsible for stimulating the overall cell growth. Before menopause, most of the estrogen in the body gets produced by the ovaries. However, after menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen. This gets converted to fat tissues. The more fat a woman will have in her body, the higher will be the estrogen level.
Exercise is known to alter the process of estrogen metabolism. Women who had the habit of exercising regularly, the overall ratio of good estrogens to the DNA-damaging bad ones improved by as much as 25 percent. The ACS recommends that you should aim for doing around 150 minutes of exercise weekly –breaking down to just around 30 minutes of exercise per day.
- Know About the Family Cancer History: It is found that around 5-10 percent of all types of cancers, including breast cancer tends to be inherited. In cases of inherited diseases, the condition gets passed down through generations via some mutated genes. You should look out for the family’s history for other types of cancers as well. The National Cancer Institute says that around 72 percent of women who tend to inherit the BRCA1 mutation along with around 69 percent of those inheriting the BRCA2 mutations might develop breast cancer as they reach 8- years of age.
A series of diagnoses on both sides of your family can serve as a hint to the heredity link to breast cancer in your family history. While genetics is a highly complicated topic, taking help from a professional genetic counselor can not only help in providing you with accurate information regarding the potential risks, but can also help you in deciding whether or not genetic testing is the right option for you.
- Avoid Unnecessary Screening Tests: While it might sound ironic because mammograms are the staple surveillance methods of detecting breast cancer, still the presence of ionizing radiation –the one present in most of the screening tests, is known to be a major risk factor to developing breast cancer. This is because repeated screenings could result in DNA mutations in the breast cells. This does not imply that you should cancel your mammograms altogether.
Mammograms are known to deliver minute doses of radiation. Moreover, if you are aware of the necessary guidelines, it can pose no major threat to your body. However, there are exceptions. Women who might have undergone radiation therapy to their chest area for the diagnosis of previous cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease, tend to have a slightly higher chance of developing breast cancer. Generally, as per the FDA guidelines, it is recommended that screenings & X-rays should be conducted only when the concerned physician feels the need for it towards guiding the treatment of a specific disease.
- Consider Breastfeeding: It is found that women who tend to breastfeed their babies for consistently 6-10 months at a stretch, tend to have as much as 10 percent reduced chances of developing breast cancer. This is because a woman does not tend to menstruate as they are breastfeeding, it leads to limiting the total number of cycles she would have over a lifetime. This helps in lowering the amount of estrogen in her body.
Otis Brawley –MD and a Chief Medical Officer at ACS, states that a major data reveals that breastfeeding helps in lowering the overall breast cancer risk. While breasts are the best for your babies, it is the best part of your body as well.
- Eat the Right Foods: Dietary habits play a vital role in regulating the overall risks of developing all types of cancers –breast cancer as well. A series of studies reveal that your diet can significantly impact the overall risk of developing breast cancer in the long run. A team of researchers at Harvard recently found out that women who tend to have a higher level of carotenoid in their blood –including beta-carotene and lycopene, had as much as 19 percent lowered chance of breast cancer.
Carotenoids are vibrant pigments that serve as rich antioxidants and are commonly found in veggies & fruits including carrots, leafy veggies, red peppers, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Women who had the habit of consuming more carotenoids had a lower risk of getting estrogen-receptor-negative form of breast cancer –an aggressive form of cancer. Other vital phytonutrients including sulforaphane –commonly found in cruciferous veggies including broccoli, might also offer protection against breast cancer. ACS recommends that you should aim at consuming around 2-3 cups of fresh fruits & veggies on a daily basis. Moreover, you should also limit your intake of red & processed meat while choosing legumes & whole grains to reduce the risks of almost all types of cancers.
- Ensure Early Detection: As breast cancer gets detected early, the prognosis often turns out effective. The typical 5 year of breast cancer survival rate that has been detected early is as high as 99 percent as per the reports by ACS.
In case you have an average risk with no family history, it is recommended that you should consider getting a mammogram along with clinical breast examination every 1-2 years. This should start at the age of around 50 years. There are experts who recommend that you should start the detection process at as early as 40 years. Get familiar with how your breasts feel and appear normally such that you are able to report any change to your physician as soon as you observe one.
Now that you are aware of the common preventive ways to stay safe from breast cancer, it is recommended to give these a serious consideration in order to ensure yourself a healthy, prolonged life. Breasts are vital organs in your body. Take care of the same by knowing the early signs and preventing breast cancer at all costs.