Fight Breast Cancer With Healthy Habits Now
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every year, during the entire month of October various organizations and charities that focus on breast cancer unite to increase awareness and raise funds for research into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of breast cancer. Pink has become the color most identified with the cause and you are sure to see not only pink ribbons, but buildings lit with pink lights and sports teams wearing pink to support the cause.
Here at The Women’s Choice Award we have a special place in our hearts for women who are fighting breast cancer (see the story of how Women’s Choice Award was created after our founder Delia Passi was diagnosed with breast cancer here) and we will be featuring a series of informative posts on breast cancer this month. This first one will concentrate on how you can decrease your risk of breast cancer at any age.
Know your family history. Don’t be afraid to ask your female family members about their medical history. Start with your mother. Ask if anyone in your family has had breast cancer. If they have, ask them for details. What kind of cancer did they have? When and how was it diagnosed? How was it treated? Write her answers down and discuss them with your doctor so they are added to your medical history. While these questions may seem invasive, they can, literally, save your life. According to BreastCancer.org, if you have had one “first-degree” (sister, mother, daughter) relative diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is doubled. If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed, your risk is five times higher than average. So, don’t be afraid to ask. Your family member just might appreciate your interest in their story.
Do a monthly breast exam. An exam takes very little time and can easily be done in the privacy of your home. Watch for not only lumps in the breast or armpit, but also any unusual discharge from the nipple. Make a monthly breast exam part of your self-care routine, just like touching up your roots or plucking your brows.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. It is never going to be easier to shed those extra pounds than during your twenties. Explore new sports and activities with friends. Join a gym or play in a sports team. Committing to eating healthy and exercising regularly during your twenties will create a foundation for health for the rest of your life.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and limit red meat. The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are widely known. Risks of red meat are just becoming known, especially processed meats. Increase the fruits and veggies and decrease the meats.
Limit drinking alcohol. While the health benefits of an occasional glass of wine have long been known, drinking alcohol in excess can increase the risk of breast cancer. For many of us, we are at the most risk of drinking in excess during our twenties. Limit your alcohol intake and drink responsibly. If you find yourself wondering if you are drinking too much, or telling yourself that you need to cut back on the drinking and then failing to do so, it is time to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Now.
Have a baby! Of course, this one is optional. Ha! If you have decided to have a baby, studies show that giving birth before the age of thirty lowers your risk of breast cancer. Studies also show that your days of sleeping in are over, but that is another story.
Continue monthly breast exams. Our plates are usually really full during our thirties. Marriage, children, moving, career, and buying a home consume our time and energy. During such hectic times women tend to put themselves last on the list. Resist that urge and continue making monthly breast exams a priority.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Like everything else in your thirties, if you do not prioritize maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise routine, it will quickly slide down your list of things to do. Pair up with an exercise buddy and walk or take classes together.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and limit red meat. While it is certainly easier to hit the drive through and grab a burger and fries for everyone in the family, resist the urge. If you have children, they are learning their eating habits from you. Set aside time every week to plan ahead and determine what you will be eating during the upcoming week. Buy all of your groceries at once and use a slow cooker to save time.
Limit drinking alcohol. Continue to confine drinking to social situations and limit amounts.
Schedule a baseline mammogram. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family it is recommended that you have your first baseline mammogram at 35.
Consider switching birth control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain kinds of birth control pills can increase risk of cancer. Modern birth control pills have less risk, but you might want to discuss alternative forms of birth control with your doctor.
If you have children, most likely they are starting to leave the nest and now it is time to spread your wings. Take on a new hobby and join the local gym. Many women report feeling their very best during their forties. Enjoy! During your forties and beyond in addition to monthly breast exams, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating healthy, and limiting alcohol, you need to educate yourself on the risks and benefits of regular mammograms. Discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor and other women. In the last few years some organizations have lowered their suggestions..
During the ages of 40-49 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammogram screening every two years.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women 45 to 49 do an annual mammogram.
According to statistics, women are most likely to develop breast cancer after the age of fifty so your fifties are especially important to breast health. Make your health a priority and continue the monthly breast exams, maintain your weight, exercise regularly, eat healthy, limit your alcohol intake, and schedule and keep your mammograms. Menopausal women also need to discuss hormone replacement therapy with their doctors. The CDC claims some forms (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise the risk for breast cancer.
The USPSTF recommends women 50 to 74 receive a mammogram every two years.
The ACS recommends women 50 to 54 receive a mammogram every year and women aged 55 and over receive a mammogram every year.
Sixties and beyond
According to the CDC, the average age when women are diagnosed with breast cancer is 61, so your sixties is no time to ignore the health of your breasts. Continue with your monthly breast exams, healthy habits, and a mammogram every two years. Encourage your female friends and family members to get their own mammograms. Buddy up with a friend and get your mammograms at the same facility on the same day. Have lunch together after your screenings and make it a fun annual event.
Today – no matter what your age
Commit to breast health and encourage the women you love to do the same by sharing this post.
Below are breast centers approved by The Women’s Choice Awards –