October is breast cancer awareness month. This is a topic that is very close to my heart. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42 and I am happy to say that she is a breast cancer survivor! I also had a breast cancer scare and had a biopsy done at the age of 32. I now have a titanium clip inserted and need to have mammograms, breast ultrasounds and MRI’s annually to ensure that I am still in good health. I’m not going to lie, when I had my first mammogram 5 years ago it was life changing! I was nervous and went into my appointment absolutely sure that they wouldn’t find anything. After all, it’s just a routine screening because of my increased risk of developing breast cancer. I was only 32 and that’s too young for something to be wrong with me! NOT TRUE!! When I got the phone call that they found something suspicious on the mammogram, my heart stopped and my whole body went numb. What??? How could they find something? I’m too young and my son is only 2 years old! Of course my son was the first thing that popped into my head. I had to go for more tests to get more definitive answers. My worst fears were confirmed…they found a tumor. It was a small tumor, but it was still a tumor! I went to multiple breast surgeons looking for answers and I finally found a doctor who was willing to remove it so I could get answers about whether or not it was cancerous. I waited for days to get the results and I was on pins and needles! Finally I received the call that the tumor was benign. I could breathe again!!! I am still “red flagged” and not out of the woods, but healthy and very grateful!
Many women aren’t as lucky as me and get that life changing phone call informing them that the tumor is malignant. In fact, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. That’s 12% of all women! Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. So, what can we do to help reduce our risk? Here are a few healthy habits to help reduce your risk of being diagnosed with this disease:
- Breastfeeding- According to some studies, breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Reducing alcohol consumption- It’s okay to have an occasional glass of wine or beer, but the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk of developing breast cancer
- Don’t smoke- This is a risk factor for many types of cancers and should be avoided.
- Exercise- Get up and move!! You don’t need to workout every day, but a fit lifestyle has been shown to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise weekly. It may sound like a lot to some people, but it is less than 30 minutes per day
- Maintain a healthy weight- Being overweight increases your risk of developing breast caner.
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep- Dietary fats may increase your risk for breast cancer and fruits and vegetables and whole grains may help to reduce your risk. Add these antioxidant foods to your diet to help prevent breast cancer (and other cancers): Beans, blueberries, flaxseed, brocolli, garlic, mushrooms, green tea, salmon and spinach
- Go for annual mammograms and perform self breast exams once a month (3-5 days after your menstrual period)
- Early detection is key!
I know that there is not a definitive way to avoid developing breast cancer, but I hope you implement some of these healthy habits into your life to help lower your risk. I know I do!!