“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Remembering this famous quote by Benjamin Franklin is a great way to head into October, which is officially National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but it can be successfully treated when found early. While this month is dedicated to raising funds for lifesaving research, it’s also furthering awareness so more women (and men) can detect breast cancer early on, and even better, lead a healthy, preventative lifestyle .
Know your risk. Being a woman, the older you get, the more your risk increases. Genetics also play a role as about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary according to the American Cancer Society. The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. You can learn more about your risk by speaking with your family about medical histories along with your physician. Genetic testing is also an option, but should carefully be considered.
Have a professional exam. If you’re at average risk, the Susan G. Komen Foundation urges women to have a professional screening every three years starting at age twenty, and every year starting at age 40. Routine professional exams are crucial in detecting breast cancers in early stages. Talking with your healthcare team will also help determine when you should be seen.
Listen to your body, perform a self-check. While the signs may differ for every woman, if something new appears: lump, swelling, warmth, redness, dimpling, chronic pain or anything out of the ordinary, see your doctor immediately. Get to know what’s normal for you.
Create good habits. Leading a healthy lifestyle is the most natural way to reduce cancer risk. The Mayo Clinic suggests limiting alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day, and refraining from smoking. Also, work to stay within your target weight through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 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.
Avoid or limit exposure to chemical and environmental factors. Avoid exposure to radiation such as medical imaging and environmental pollution like gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust. Limit sun exposure and avoiding tanning beds, as both can lead to skin cancer. If you’ve had either melanoma, or breast cancer, you’re at increased risk to developing the other according to a study cited by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Check your skin regularly for abnormal moles/spots. Wearing sun protective clothing, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses will also reduce your risk.
Get your pink on, share this message and help raise awareness!