Breast cancer, like many other cancers, can have a variety of risk factors. Some of them, such as being a woman, a family history of breast cancer, and growing older, are unavoidable. But there are steps you can take to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Among Hispanic women, breast cancer is the most common cancer-related death in the U.S. For White, Black, Asian, and Native American women, it is the second most common, topped only by lung cancer. Men can also get invasive breast cancer, but the chances are much more remote – it is almost 100 times less common in men.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, expert help is available close to home. Radiation therapy is often used to preserve breast tissue after a cancerous tumor has been surgically removed, or to treat areas such as lymph nodes to which cancer may have spread.
“Breast cancer treatment is very personalized to each woman’s personal goals as well as what the extent of disease had been in order to achieve cure,” says Irene Li, D.O., radiation oncologist with The Medical Center Cancer Center. “There is constant evolution in the field of oncology for improving breast cancer care. In radiation oncology there are now multiple options for how a patient can be treated as well as the duration of therapy. We have a conversation with our patients and together create a plan that will help each woman choose the best treatment option for her so that she may remain cancer free, feel strong and feel like herself.”
What you can do to prevent breast cancer
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid many diseases, and breast cancer is no exception. According to the American Cancer Society, most cancer deaths could be avoided by not smoking, eating right, staying at a healthy weight, being active, and getting your recommended screening tests. With today’s hectic lifestyle, however, it may sometimes seem difficult to get on track to a healthy lifestyle or to make that appointment for a mammogram. Here are some things to consider while mapping out your journey to a healthy, reduced-risk, lifestyle.
- Talk to your doctor — The first step toward a healthy lifestyle is knowledge – know where you are and what your goals are. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your doctor, and take whatever he or she says to you very seriously. You alone are responsible for your good health, but your doctor’s guidance can be invaluable.
- Limit alcohol — There is a clear link between alcohol and an increased risk of developing breast cancer, which increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1 1/2 times the risk of women who don’t drink at all.
- Maintain healthy weight, especially after menopause — After menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels.
- Eat a healthy diet — While there is not yet a clear link, some studies suggest that what you eat may play a role in prevention. However, since being overweight is a proven risk factor and eating a healthy diet can help you lose weight, try to stick to a diet that includes more fresh veggies and fruit and less fried or fatty foods. So, if you find yourself on the run and getting lunch in a bag at a drive-thru, make healthier choices such as a salad or no French fries. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about what diet might be right for you.
- Keep moving — As with many other illnesses, breast cancer risk is reduced by regular exercise. As little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking may reduce a woman’s risk by as much as 18%.
- Don’t smoke — Chemicals in tobacco smoke reach breast tissue and are found in breast milk. When it comes to second-hand smoke, the US Surgeon General’s report in 2014 concluded there is “suggestive but not sufficient” evidence of a link between second-hand smoke and breast cancer.
- Birth control/hormone replacement therapy — Oral contraceptives and depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA; Depo-Provera®) may increase the risk of breast cancer. If you are currently on oral contraceptives, DMPA or taking hormone replacement therapy, discuss this with your doctor.
One of the single most important things a woman can do for herself is annual screening mammograms. Mammography, especially 3D mammography, is still the best exam for breast cancer screening. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed up to a 40% decrease in breast cancer death rates in women who undergo annual mammography. Recommendations on when to start screening vary between age 40 and 45 for most women without significant family history. Talk to your doctor to see what is right for you based on your personal and family health histories.
To schedule a mammogram at The Medical Center or Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging, call 270-745-1199 or 1-800-231-9621.