The statistics are alarming and hopefully they get your attention, or the attention of a woman you love. One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Over 300,000 new cases of invasive and non-invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year alone.
Though it’s impossible to figure out just which one woman in a crowd of eight will be diagnosed, there are some steps a woman can take to be as proactive as possible in the fight against breast cancer.
- Watch the weight. The connection between weight and breast cancer is complicated. The more extra pounds a woman is carrying increases her risk of developing breast cancer. Women that are overweight or obese after menopause boosts that risk even higher. It’s the female hormone estrogen that can help breast cancer grow, and after menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Cut down on the calories if you are consuming too many.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is just plain bad for you. The list of diseases that smoking is connected to is long and younger, premenopausal women are at a high risk of breast cancer if they smoke. Kick the habit and also steer clear of very heavy second-hand smoke.
- Get moving. Being physically active is not only good for the body, but also important for the mind and spirit. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests 150 minutes a week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly. Add strength training at least twice a week and enjoy the positive effects and happy feeling from your own endorphins.
- Focus on plant-based foods. The American Cancer Society recommends diets that are high in fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains. Also reduce red and processed meats, refined grains and sugars. Changing what’s on the dinner plate can give better results in fighting off – and surviving – cancer.
- Breast-feed. If you are planning to get pregnant or are already expecting, breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. It will be good for you and for baby.
- Limit the dose and duration of hormone therapy. Many women seek help with their premenopausal and menopausal symptoms with hormone replacement therapy (HTR). However, estrogen-only HTR can hike the risk of breast cancer if a woman is using it for more than 10 years. Estrogen-only HTR can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, so every woman should talk with her doctor about the options that are available.
What else can a woman do? She can be vigilant about early detection. That’s more than making sure she has timely mammograms. It’s about her looking for changes in her breasts such as noticing a new lump or skin changes. Any type of change should be shared with her doctor as well as discussing any other screenings based on her personal history.
Encourage the women in your life to do what will make them healthier. That is a personal, impactful gift that each woman deserves to receive.