October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; a month to honor those diagnosed with breast cancer and empower all of us with information to prevent it. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world. It affects women of all ethnic backgrounds and, contrary to popular belief, men as well. Because the specific causes are unclear in both men and women, it is incredibly important to know what you can do to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Here are three things you can do to lower your breast cancer risk:
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, signs of breast cancer include abnormal changes in breast function, feel, and appearance. Experiencing pain, irritation, and dimpling of the breast skin is a common warning sign of a serious condition. Pain generally centers within the nipple area but may occur in any area of the breast. A pulling sensation on the nipple may also point to breast cancer.
Physical changes to the breast, such as hardening, swelling, dimpling, and irritation are also warning signs of breast cancer. One of the most well-known signs of breast cancer, a lump in the breast or underarm, requires immediate attention and should be examined by a healthcare professional. Knowing these signs and symptoms empowers you to keep an eye out for breast irregularities.
As the old saying goes, prevention is the best cure. Preventative care helps to detect disease in its early stages, which lowers the risk of serious complications often caused by prolonged disease. In other words, preventative care catches cancer early and increase the chances of a favorable outcome post-treatment. Preventative care is generally practiced by primary care physicians. Therefore, it is vital to have an on-going relationship with your primary care provider, who can serve as your first line of defense.
Regular visits allow your physician to examine you often (which is also called “screening”) and notice even slight changes in breast health. Additionally, primary care providers can equip you with key techniques for performing self-examinations and strategies for maintaining overall health. With the important resource of a primary care physician, you are equipped with both information and prevention.
It is common knowledge that eating well and exercising regularly improves health, but did you know that certain habits are linked to cancer? According to the American Cancer Society, women who lowered their alcohol consumption to 1 alcoholic drink a day, as opposed to 2 to 3 drinks a day, decreased their risk of developing breast cancer by 10-13%. Of course, it is best not to drink alcohol at all, but if you must it is recommended to do so in moderation. Lowering alcoholic intake is helpful for reducing breast cancer risk and improving overall health.
Just as with alcohol, what we put into our bodies can either champion us towards healthier living or create lasting complications. Generally, weight can serve as an indicator of overall health and reflects what we put into our bodies. It is recommended to stay at a healthy weight throughout your lifetime to lower the risk of breast cancer. Insulin, a hormone used to maintain blood sugar levels, may play a key factor in the link between obesity and breast cancer. When overweight, insulin levels increase due to excess fat. High insulin levels result in an increased risk of breast cancer — linking obesity to breast cancer.
For post-menopausal women especially, being overweight may trigger harmful effects. Extra weight means extra fat tissue, which produces extra estrogen. At normal levels, estrogen is a helpful hormone. It works to regulate the menstrual cycle and is key to proper female development. But at high levels, insulin due to weight gain is linked to increased breast cancer risk. It is best to monitor your dietary intake, maintain an active lifestyle, and speak with your primary care physician for assistance with weight management.
An important aspect of weight management is regular exercise. The recommended amount of exercise to maintain a healthy weight is 150 minutes a week of moderate exercises, such as power walking, or 75 minutes of rigorous activity, such as running, bicycling, or aerobics. With the introduction of crisp fall weather, now is the perfect time to enjoy a nice walk in the park or a jog around the neighborhood. Even on rainy days, finding an engaging aerobic class on YouTube can get our body moving.
Taking advantage of the resources available through preventative care can lower your risk of developing breast cancer and guide you towards a healthier life. At ObGyne Consultants, we believe that the best care is care that is compassionate and holistic. We want to accompany you on your journey to health and wholeness.
Contact one of our offices in East Macon, Downtown Macon, Warner Robins, or Forsyth to schedule your appointment with us or use our online appointment tool. We look forward to journeying with you.