Reducing Breast Cancer Risk: Just Do it!

You’d have to be asleep at the wheel to not know it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I love it – everyone seems to get into the “pinking” of America.  Seeing those brawny NFL players strut their stuff sporting uniforms accented in pink – that must inspire more men to invest in the fight. After all, they have wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters and friends to think about.  (And – men get Breast Cancer too!)

There’s news both good and bad in the raging battle against Breast Cancer.   Let’s talk about the good news first:  Breast Cancer claimed the lives of fewer women in recent years, likely due to increased awareness campaigns.  In 2010, 2.5 million women survived Breast Cancer.   Way to go!

The bad news? Nearly 40,000 women lost their battles with Breast Cancer in 2010.  That’s almost the entire female population of Ahwatukee.  We’ve still got plenty of work to do.   Me – I’ve got on my boxing gloves.  (Or at least, my latex gloves!)

Medical providers and advocates can shout it from the rooftops until we’re “pink” in the face – but prevention starts with each woman making a commitment to prioritizing her own health.  Ladies, I know you put every other person in your life first.  It’s just what we do.  But you can’t take care of anyone else without taking care of you first.  It’s not selfish – it’s self-care.

 

True, there are certain risk factors you can’t control.  Your risk for Breast Cancer increases if you’re a woman, and increases as you age.  Your chances go up if you carry a genetic predisposition, and if you never experienced pregnancy or breastfed an infant.  Still – what are you doing to mitigate these risks, the ones you can control?

You’re making a good move right now.  Don’t stop reading just yet; check out the risk factors:

Inadequate Nutrition:

Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?  (And, have you read about the effects of consuming too many animal source proteins?  These may contain hormones, pesticides and other carcinogenic by-products.)  Take time to examine your diet; make certain you’re getting all the nutrients you need to ward off Cancer.

Excess Weight:

Has your doctor advised you to shed some pounds?  Maintaining a healthy weight reduces risk for many hazardous health issues, including cancer.

Lack of Exercise:

The benefits of vigorous, consistent exercise have been statistically linked to reducing Breast Cancer risk.  Plus, you enjoy the benefits of increased energy, mindfulness, and libido.

Smoking:

 

Smoking tobacco – well, there’s just nothing good about it.  Smoking increases your risk for more health hazards than I can count.  Consider stopping; or get help.

 

Exposure to Estrogen:

Estrogen is the hormone that produces female sex characteristics.  The longer a woman is exposed to them, the higher her risk of Breast Cancer.  Post-menopausal women (who cease producing Estrogen) who take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT/HT) suffer increased risk of Cancer by increasing the breast tissue’s exposure to Estrogen.   Talk to your Nurse Practitioner or medical professional, and consider reducing your dosages or choosing an alternative to relieving your symptoms.

Since every woman must be her own health care advocate, I encourage you to stay abreast (pun intended!) of the latest news regarding prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer.  And pay it forward.  Donate money toward research; participate in a breast cancer walk or run; volunteer to raise awareness.  Ask your best friend if she’s given herself a breast exam lately.  Check out the following websites for help.

 

http://www.breastcancer.org/

 

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast

 

http://www.cancer.org/index

 

Cheers to your breast health ever!

 

Agnes, APRN