If you’re concerned about breast cancer, you’re not alone. The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, excluding skin cancers. For every eight women, one will develop the disease in her lifetime.
But we hope to protect you by turning worrisome thoughts into positive actions with risk-reducing advice and recommendations from Catherine Sue Hwang, MD, one of our leading radiation oncologists who specializes in breast cancer.
Dr. Hwang shares some tips on how to reduce your risk of developing the disease as well as strategies for detecting it early.
- Get Active and Eat Healthy
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise four to five times a week. Eating a plant-based diet can also help lower your chances.
- Cut Out Alcohol
Breast cancer risk has been shown to be consistently higher in women who drink alcohol compared to those that do not. In addition, your risk goes up as you consume more alcohol. Abstaining would be the best way to minimize your overall risk.
- Don’t Smoke
In addition to causing lung cancer and heart disease, smoking can also increase your risk for breast cancer. If you’re struggling to quit, ask your primary care doctor for effective strategies or medications that can help.
- Keep Up With Screening Mammograms
Routine imaging of the breasts should begin at age 40 for those considered at average risk for breast cancer. Imaging may begin earlier, or additional imaging may be needed for those at high risk, such as women with a strong family history of the disease or those with known genetic mutations.
- Perform Self-Exams
You might feel uncomfortable with self-examination, or simply not know what to look for. But routine self-exams help you become familiar with your normal breast shape and texture so you can notice if anything new develops. If you’re uncertain or have concerns about what you’re feeling, make sure to follow-up with your doctor or ask her/him to show you the best technique.
- Know Your Health Numbers
Your annual physical provides an opportunity for your doctor to establish baseline information he/she can use for comparison purposes in future physical exams. Because even small changes can indicate potentially serious problems, an annual physical can detect an illness before it begins or during its early stages when treatment can be less invasive.
- Reduce Your Stress
Learn to care for yourself the way you care for others, which includes reducing and managing your stress. When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called epinephrine as a part of your "fight or flight" response. While epinephrine is important for survival, it's not as beneficial to the body in chronic doses.
Dr. Hwang recommends adopting stress reduction practices in your daily life, such as 15 minutes of meditation, yoga or relaxation techniques as wholistic steps to reduce your cancer risk. And of course, “Try to get eight hours of sleep every night to restore and rebalance your immune system and hormone levels, among other functions.”
While taking every possible step to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer is so important, screening mammograms are still the best way to help detect and treat early on. Make sure you’re communicating with your physician about your health history so you can complete screenings at the appropriate time that’s best for you.
When You’re Ready, We’re Ready
We have extraordinary precautions in place to keep you safe and well, including social distancing, temperature scanning, masks worn by staff and visitors and around-the-clock sanitization. As you take the steps needed to get your life and health care back on track, we’re here to help. Schedule your 3D, 30-minute mammogram by calling Call866-366-PINK or schedule anytime online at ScheduleYourMammo.com.