Healthy women are the cornerstone of healthy societies. We often find the women in our lives juggling various roles and responsibilities, and in this pursuit of multitasking, they often end up neglecting their health and needs.
So in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to play our part by shedding light on the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women all over the world. Research shows that in the United States, 1 in 8 women will develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime, and it is the second leading cause of death for women.
In the following blog, we will talk about the risk factors for Breast Cancer and educate women on the steps they can take for Breast Cancer prevention and reduce Breast Cancer risks. We strongly encourage you to keep reading if you’re a woman or have a woman in your life whom you deeply care about.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer occurs when the cells in your breast grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner. This ends up creating a mass of tissue called a tumour. The most common signs of this cancer include a change in the size of your breast, swelling or thickening of all or part of the breast, feeling a lump in your breast, persistent breast pain, nipple discharge or thickening of the nipple, and witnessing changes to the skin on your breasts, e.g. redness, scaliness, etc.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
The risk of developing Breast Cancer increases with age and is mostly diagnosed in women 55 years or older. Moreover, breast density is another factor since dense breasts have more significant connective tissue than fatty tissue, which often makes it difficult to detect tumours on a mammogram.
The personal and family history of Breast Cancer also play a significant role as women who have previously had Breast Cancer have a higher risk of getting it again. Also, if a first-degree relative, e.g. your mother, sister or daughter and multiple women in your family have had Breast Cancer, then it is likely that you will develop it as well.
Your reproductive history matters a lot too. For example, women starting menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 experience longer hormones, raising Breast Cancer risk. Other than that, changes in specific breast genes, e.g. BRCA1 and BRCA2, also result in high risk.
The good news is that certain risk factors are lifestyle-related, which means they are totally in your control. These factors include your alcohol intake, weight, level of physical activity, the use of contraceptives, and whether you’re taking hormones. Therefore, women must cautiously and actively make lifestyle choices that help them lower Breast Cancer risk. We will now discuss some of the ways through which women can achieve that.
The Steps You Can Take To Reduce Your Risk
1. Limit Alcohol Intake
Research shows that if you consume a large amount of alcohol daily, you put yourself at a very high risk of getting Breast Cancer. Even small amounts of alcohol can be pretty detrimental to your health. Still, if you find it difficult to let go of alcohol completely, we recommend limiting your alcohol intake to one drink a day.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s important to keep your weight in check as being overweight can increase the risk of developing Breast Cancer, especially after menopause, so if you have healthy body weight, make sure to maintain that. However, if you need to lose weight, reduce the calories you consume in a day while increasing the amount of exercise.
3. Be Physically Active
This goes without saying, but if you wish to maintain a healthy weight, you can’t achieve that without regular exercise. If you’re not used to physical exertion, you can start small with around 30 minutes of physical activity per day, but eventually, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly as well as strength training twice a week.
4. Consume a Healthy Diet
A diet composed of healthy foods plays a major role in decreasing the risk of Breast Cancer. We recommend following the Mediterranean diet, which focuses mainly on plant-based foods and includes many Breast Cancer prevention foods, e.g. fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. It works wonders for women hoping to reduce the chance of developing Breast Cancer. Such a diet includes healthy fats such as olive oil instead of butter and fish instead of red meat.
5. Quit Smoking
We all know that smoking is a major health hazard. It causes at least 15 different types of cancer, including Breast Cancer. So if you smoke, you need to quit as soon as possible. It might be a little tricky at first, so you should consider getting help, as that makes it relatively easier to give up smoking for good.
6. Breastfeed, if Possible
Breastfeeding can also play a role in Breast Cancer prevention. It is advised to breastfeed for a total of one year or more because breastfeeding for a relatively long time can significantly lower Breast Cancer risk.
7. Minimize Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first to fully understand the risks and benefits of hormone therapy, as it may increase the risk of Breast Cancer. There are non-hormonal therapies and medications that you can use to manage your symptoms, but if they don’t work for you, then take the lowest dose of hormones and keep your doctor in the loop so they can monitor the duration for which you’re taking hormones.
8. Reconsider Using Contraceptives
While birth control pills have many benefits, e.g. preventing unwanted pregnancy, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, controlling menstrual bleeding etc., research has shown that women who take them regularly have a slightly higher risk of developing Breast Cancer. The risk, however, is relatively small and goes away once you stop taking contraceptives. Therefore, it would be best to discuss this with your doctor.
9. Perform Frequent Breast Self-Examination
Frequently performing breast-self exams can help detect Breast Cancer early, thus increasing the likelihood of survival. It is recommended to perform the self-exam once every month; women who are still menstruating can perform the exam right after their period and those who have stopped menstruating or have irregular periods can pick any one day each month. It only takes a few minutes as all you have to do is look at and feel your breasts to identify breast lumps or anything that might seem abnormal.
10. Carry Out Regular Breast Cancer Screening
It must be realized that breast self-exams should not replace Breast Cancer screening which is recommended by doctors. While screening via mammograms doesn’t prevent Breast Cancer altogether, it can help detect it at an early stage when it’s more treatable. Make sure to talk to your doctor regularly about your risk factors. Suppose you have a family history of Breast Cancer or notice unusual changes in your breasts. In that case, you need to be extra vigilant about regularly getting mammograms done, as this could save your life.
Play Your Part
At Vision Sports Club, we are strong advocates of the idea that everyone deserves to live a happy, healthy and full life. That’s why we work day and night to help people transform into the very best version of themselves.
We understand that while Breast Cancer itself is beyond our control, there are steps we can take to mitigate its risk for all the women out there. For this purpose, we have dedicated the entire month of October to Breast Cancer Awareness. Our Pink Out Campaign is now LIVE; we are actively collecting donations to fund Breast Cancer research to help fight this deadly disease.
Driving a campaign to success takes a village. So we urge you to come forward and play your part by supporting this campaign. You can simply contact us via this form if you’d like to donate. Let’s beat Breast Cancer together!