Breast cancer is the 5th leading cause of death among women over the age of 40. However, if diagnosed with breast cancer in its earliest stages, it actually has a very high survival rate. This is why it is so important to inform the public on issues such as early detection, symptoms, risk factors and healthy habits to help ward off breast cancer.
Women of all ages are advised to administer self breast exams on a monthly basis. Starting this at a young age familiarizes you with your own normal breast tissue; this will make you more capable of noticing an irregularity such as a lump if it should ever occur. Risk of breast cancer increases with age, which is why women should begin getting mammograms once they turn 40, on an annual or bi-annual basis.
If you have an immediate relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer you should talk to your doctor about when you should start receiving mammograms, as they may want you to begin earlier. When breast cancer firsts strikes it may not have any signs or symptoms, which would make it impossible to pick up on a self exam.
However, mammograms (X-rays of the breast) can pick up on breast cancer in its earliest stage; this makes them a doctor's best chance to diagnose breast cancer early.
There are some common symptoms that many women experience when they have breast cancer. The symptoms below do not necessarily indicate breast cancer, but they can be a warning sign and should probably be checked out by a doctor just in case:
- A new lump or bump in the breast or underarm
- Any discharge from the nipple
- Irritation or dimpling of the breast skin
- Change in breast size or shape
- Inversion or pulling of the nipple
- Flaky skin or (abnormal) redness in the nipple and/or breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
Breast cancer occurs when breast cells begin growing abnormally and then these cells form a tumor. However, doctors have not discovered exactly what causes the cells to mutate in some people and not in others. Therefore, it is possible for anyone to develop breast cancer, but there are some factors that can increase your risk.
Being Female - Breast cancer is far more prevalent in women than men. For every 100 women diagnosed, there is less than 1 man diagnosed
Personal Breast Cancer History - If you have already had cancer in 1 breast, you have an increased risk of developing it in the other breast
Family History - 5% - 10% of breast cancer cases are linked to a genetic mutation that is passed down amongst family members, which raises one's risk
Hormonal Changes - If you begin your period before age 12, have your first baby after age 35, or begin menopause after age 55, there is an increased risk
Obesity - Being severely overweight increases your breast cancer risk
Alcohol - Excessive drinking may increase your risk
Hormone Therapy - Women who take hormone medications that contain estrogen and progesterone to help regulate symptoms of menopause have an increased risk
Radiation - Repeated exposure to radiation, such as receiving a large number of chest X-rays also increases breast cancer risk
There are some risk factors that we can't control such as being female or having a family history of breast cancer; however there are positive steps that we can take in our daily lives to help reduce the risk. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor in reducing your risk of developing breast cancer. Staying fit can be done through diet and exercise, both of which offer additional cancer fighting benefits.
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day for 5 for days a week has been shown to cut down cancer risk. Foods that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties such as tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower are thought to have powerful cancer fighting abilities. Fatty fish such as salmon has also been shown to help ward off breast cancer because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Limited research has shown that cancer cells actually die in test tubes when exposed to garlic, so go ahead and pile it on! As for our cancer prevention beverage of choice, reach for some green tea. Green tea contains EGCG, which is an extremely powerful antioxidant.
Limit your alcohol consumption, as an excess of one drink per day can increase your risk. Finally, if you are experiencing menopause, try to limit your use of hormone therapy. If your post-menopausal symptoms are unbearable use the lowest dose of hormone therapy possible for the shortest amount of time.
Remember, early detection is a person's best chance of surviving a breast cancer diagnosis, so be sure to schedule yourself a mammogram if you are over 40 and have not had one within two years! Employers who have an incentivized wellness program should consider including yearly mammograms for woman over age 40 part of the requirements for gaining incentives to help drive early detection.
eni provides customized wellness programs, designed with evidence based research and the medical expertise of the Harvard School of Public Health. eni's ultimate goal is to create dynamic solutions that actively engage, educate, and empower a happy, healthy, more productive workforce. Learn more at www.eniweb.com or call us at 1.800.364.4748