There’s a good chance you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer. According to statistics, around 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. Breast cancer death rates among women in the U.S. are second highest, next to lung cancer.
Though breast cancer is prevalent, most breast cancer isn’t inherited (less than 10%), which means there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of being diagnosed. And if you’re a survivor, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of cancer recurrence.
Let’s take a closer look at ways to promote early detection and go over healthy habits to reduce your risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Why Early Breast Cancer Detection Is Important
The American Cancer Society states early detection of breast cancer in the localized stage shows a 99% 5-year relative survival rate. Early detection measures should become habits, just like brushing your teeth. These steps include:
Monthly Breast Self-Exams: Start these at a young age and get your daughters doing them as soon as possible. The best time to do these exams is 3-5 days after your period if you are menstruating. Your breast typically doesn’t have natural lumps during this time. If you’re post-menopausal, add a monthly reminder to your calendar to check your breasts on the same day.
Annual Clinical Breast Exams: Your healthcare provider performs these during your annual physical or well-woman exam. Your clinician is trained to recognize many types of breast abnormalities and changes that you may not detect on your own. This is also a great time to ask your healthcare provider for a refresher on how to do self-breast exams.
Mammogram: Women over 40 or who have close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age should have a mammogram every 1-2 years. A mammogram is an x-ray taken by a qualified specialist to examine breast tissue more extensively. They often show breast lumps and abnormalities long before you can feel them.
Healthy Habits to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Though cancer is never 100% preventable, you can develop healthy habits any time in life to reduce your risk of a diagnosis. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle that not only lower your risk of cancer but also improve your overall quality of life.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: This is especially important after menopause when an increase in fatty tissue in the body increases estrogen levels, which can raise your risk of breast cancer.
Stay Physically Active: Get moving as often as possible in ways that feel good to you. This could be daily walks, exercise classes, sports, outdoor activities, dance, or anything that feels right. Plus, it’s essential to avoid being sedentary for long periods. Get up and move throughout your day, even if it’s a quick stretch or a walk around the living room.
Avoid Toxic Habits: Smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating processed junk foods increase your risk of breast cancer. Reduce or omit these habits, and your body will thank you.
Get Plenty of Fresh Food: A nutrient-dense diet filled with fresh local produce, healthy proteins and fats, and plenty of complex carbs is a great way to bolster your overall health.
- Talk to Your Doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Talk with your doctor about all the options to control your menopause symptoms. If you decide to try HRT, ask your doctor about using the lowest dose for the shortest duration of time allowed.
We are in this together. Keep the conversation going about breast cancer awareness long after October is over. Share this with your friends and family, and encourage each other to work toward early detection and risk reduction.