Lowering Your Breast Cancer Risk
By Kara Herron, Lifting Hearts Founder and President, 7 year survivor
As one of the founders of Lifting Hearts, I’m heavily involved in the Breast Cancer community. And one of the things that I advocate is early detection and prevention. Through The American Cancer Society, we learn that, “there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk.” That is what I’d like to focus on for this month’s Founder’s Message.
Changing Risk Factors That Are Under Your Control
Body weight, physical activity, and diet have all been linked to breast cancer so, it makes sense these are areas we can focus our individual efforts. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.” One of the main ways being overweight can increase cancer risk is that excess weight causes the body to produce and circulate more estrogen and insulin, hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. So, what is a healthy weight? One of the best ways to get a good idea if you are at a healthy weight is to check your Body Mass Index (BMI). A healthy BMI is around 25 or below. Click here to check your BMI now.
The Mayo Clinic also advises patients on physical activity, saying it, “can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.”
“Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables hasn’t been consistently shown to offer protection from breast cancer,” the Mayo Clinic website states. “However, eating a healthy diet may decrease your risk of other types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight, a KEY factor in breast cancer prevention. Alcohol consumption and smoking have also been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Early Detection is Essential
As a survivor whose cancer was found at age 42, during a routine mammogram, I’m all about early detection. If breast cancer is found early there is a much greater survival rate.
The American Cancer Society has stated that most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer help save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests. Following their guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be found early and treated successfully.
Some things to remember…
1. Once a month, perform a breast self exam. Be familiar with your own breasts, notify a doctor of any changes. Click here for a great how-to guide.
2. Have a thorough medical checkup twice a year
3. Have annual mammograms, starting at age 40 if you are at average risk
Visit Nationalbreastcancer.org to learn more about each of these areas…
My greatest hope is that one day breast cancer will be a thing of the past. But, for right now, we all need to take a pro-active approach to making sure we are preventing this disease to the best of our abilities. If you are a survivor, please encourage the women in your life to take care of themselves and be aware of the risks.