- Quit smoking to reduce your risk of cancer
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce breast cancer risk
- Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy
World Cancer Day: February 4 is observed as World Cancer Day. Most Indian women will not show concern about the health of their breasts till the time they hear news regarding someone they know being detected or died because of cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among Indian women. 1 in 28 women in India develop breast cancer. Out of two who develop it, one dies.
Remember, the famous quote by American Anchor Stuart Scott, "You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live." Research shows that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of breast cancer, even in women at high risk.
World Cancer Day: Here's every woman's guide to lower their risk of developing breast cancer:
1. Limit alcohol
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation - based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk - is to limit yourself to less than one drink a day, as even small amounts increase risk.
2. Don't smoke
Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Quit smoking and also avoid second-hand smoke if you are a non-smoker.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet might decrease your risk of some types of cancer. For example, incorporating extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts in your diet might reduce risk of breast cancer. Prefer a diet focused on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Choose healthy fats, such as olive oil over butter and eat fish instead of red meat.
4. Control your weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
5. Be physically active
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
Breastfeeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
7. Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy
Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you're taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options.
8. Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution
Medical-imaging methods, such as computerised tomography, use high doses of radiation. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and cumulative exposure to radiation over your lifetime. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary.
9. Breast self-examination
Self-awareness is an important part of every girl. Experience has verified that 90% of breast cancers are found by women themselves. When women discover lumps in their breasts at a very early stage, surgery can save 70-80% of proven cases. Check for any unfamiliar indications like a lump on your breast or your armpits, changes in the shape or size of the breast, dimpling of the skin, nipple pain or retraction, eczema like rash or discharge from the nipple, every month and give yourself a self-breast exam if you are over 20 years of age. Women ageing between 29-39 years should also include a 3-yearly clinical breast examination.
10. Regular routine mammography screenings
Having a mammography is a basic part of breast health that can save lives. The American Cancer Society advocates starting yearly mammograms for all ladies at normal risk for developing breast cancer after the age of 40. Ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history.
Prevention is always better than cure. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment. The 5-year relative survival rate for women with localised breast cancer is close to 100%. Be vigilant, if you notice any changes in your breasts, consult your doctor.
(Dr. Meenu Walia, Medical Oncologist, Department of Medical Oncology and Haematology at Max Super Specialty Hospital)
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