Breast cancer awareness month may be over, but it is important for us women to be aware of the disease all year round.
Why is breast health important?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Last year alone, two million new cases were diagnosed worldwide. Every 15 seconds, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer somewhere in the world and more than six women die of breast cancer every five minutes worldwide.
In Malaysia, cancer is one of the leading causes of death affecting women, with breast cancer being the most common form of malignancy.
Unfortunately, this hits a little too close to home with it being a 1 in 19 chance of a woman in Malaysia being diagnosed with breast cancer.
While we cannot prevent breast cancer, there are ways a woman can lower their risk for developing breast cancer.
1. Practice breast self-exams
The most pro-active thing you can be doing for your breasts is practicing monthly breast self-exams.
Did you know that a significant portion of the disease is caught by self-examinations that take place under your own roof?
Breast self-examinations help you understand the normal look & feel of your breasts. After all, a woman would be the best judge as to whether her breasts have undergone any noticeable changes.
It’s recommended that women should start breast self-examinations at the age of 20.
The ideal time to carry out the self-examination is around 7 – 10 days after your period, as this is typically when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.
However, if you’re no longer menstruating or your period is irregular, pick a regular date, for example the 1st of every month, to carry out the self-examination!
BUT, don’t lose your cool should you find a lump! Many a times new bumps turn out to either be a cyst or a fluid-filled sac, which is often associated with hormonal fluctuations. And four of out five lumps felt in the breast are said tone benign. We understand that it’s easy to freak out should you find something different during a self-exam. Though a new lump might not be cancer, have it checked out by a doctor in case!
Did you know that it’s just as important to moisturise your breasts and the area surrounding it, just like you would any other part of your body? We know that moisturising can often feel a little bit like a chore, but there’s no denying that it’s a great way to keep your breasts happy.
The skin around your breasts is thin and can be particularly sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a thicker cream that doesn’t contain any irritating chemicals to prevent your chest area from becoming dry and sore.
If you notice redness or rashes around your chest area, it may well be your skin reacting to either a chemical in your moisturiser. To prevent this from happening, opt for creams that abound in ingredients like hyaluronic acid & cocoa butter.
Just like the rest of your body, your breasts require a balanced diet & regular exercise to keep them happy!
How exactly does exercise reduce your risk of breast cancer?
Exercise decreases your body fat percentage & helps you maintain a healthy weight.
This is important because fat cells found in the body store high levels of estrogen, a hormone which is one of the strongest breast cancer risk factors, particularly when the levels become too high.
Exercise decreases the levels of estrogen in your body
Exercise can modify the pattern of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which in turn causes your body to produce less estrogen and reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Exercises strengthens your immune system
Our bodies produce free radicals – unstable & highly reactive molecules that mutate cells which could lead to cancer. Free radicals can cause damage to the body, but this is counter-balanced by the production of antioxidants. While exercise generates free radicals – but when done consistently, exercise also produces a strong immune system. This gives your body a better chance of identifying & destroying breast cancer cells as they begin to form.
How much exercise is enough?
Don’t worry! You don’t need to be a seasoned athlete to lower your risk of developing breast cancer. We’d recommend a 30 – 60 minute session, 3 to 4 times a week. However if you’re completely new to exercise, do take go easy on yourself! Start small, and set manageable targets that work for you.
If exercise really is not your thing, why not start it off with an activity you actually enjoy! Then from there you can gradually build up on the amount that you do, and eventually try out other activities.
4. Eat healthy
Did you know that it’s been suggested that dietary factors could possibly be responsible for 30-40% of all cancers?
While there is no single food or diet that can entirely prevent it, one’s dietary choices can definitely make a difference in their risk of developing breast cancer.
Here are some great food options that you can incorporate into your diet, that may prevent the progression & development of breast cancer:
|Cauliflower, cabbage & broccoli contain antioxidants that are able to fight cancer cells by neutralising toxins & carcinogens.|
|Salmon, sardines & mackerel are high in omega 3, which can help reduce inflammation that may contribute to breast cancer.|
|Onions, garlic & leek are anti-fungal and help prevent tumour growth.|
|Beans are loaded with vitamins, minerals & specifically their high-fibres content – which may protect against breast cancer.|
|The antioxidants in berries have been known to protect against cellular damage and the development & spread of cancer cells.|
Oranges, lemon & lime provide antioxidants, anticancer & anti-inflammatory effects.