October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a prime time to take your health into your own hands! No matter what your age is, you can take steps to lower your breast cancer risk and improve your overall health.
Healthy Habits at Every Age
The following recommendations should be considered no matter your age or gender.
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
- Prioritize proper rest and stress management.
- Quit smoking for good.
- Aim for 160 minutes per week of moderate-high intensity exercise. Consult your physician before starting a new workout program or routine.
- Move and stretch your body daily. This includes walking, stretching and yoga.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed.
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
Preventative measures, such as following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular screenings, can dramatically decrease your odds of breast cancer and other illnesses. Awareness and education are essential. Consider the following risk factors:
- Smoking or using drugs
- Drinking alcohol to excess
- Taking birth control pills
- Family history of breast cancer
- Women who don’t have children or have them after age 30
- Women who have their first period before age 12
- Women who start menopause later in life or who take hormonal drugs during menopause for longer than five years.
If you need help managing any of the risk factors above, contact your primary care provider to discuss your options.
Nearly 85% of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of breast cancer.
How often should I get screenings?
Screenings and other diagnostic tests will vary depending on your age, health condition and family history. However, you should absolutely visit your doctor annually for a physical exam and ask them what actions you can do for your breast health.
Additionally, it’s recommended that every woman perform a self-breast exam each month. Your breasts go through numerous changes throughout the month depending on hormones, stress, lifestyle and pregnancy. Get familiar with your breasts by performing a self exam the same time each month.
Check for texture and size changes on both breasts by:
- Standing in front of a mirror, arms down and then arms raised.
- Standing with arms raised, applying pressure with three fingers to breast and armpit area, side to side, top to bottom, and in a circular motion. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
- Lying down on your back, one arm raised. Repeat the same motions mentioned above, feeling for any changes. Repeat on the other side.
If you notice any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in nipples, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and globally. Thankfully, actions such as preventative care, screenings, and lifestyle changes help to lower risk and detect any changes early on.
If you have not had a mammogram and are over age 40, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an exam. Your provider can also help you decide what changes you can make to your lifestyle that may decrease your risk of illness, including breast cancer.