Preventing breast cancer Q&A
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
There are no two ways about it – breast cancer is scary. The reality is that most women (and men, who also get breast cancer) will not die from the disease. Nevertheless, a breast cancer diagnosis changes your life, regardless of the treatment path you take. While there are factors that lead to breast cancer, like genetics, that can’t be changed, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting the disease. And the earlier you start to take these steps, the better.
Here are some common questions and answers about breast health and preventing breast cancer you may find helpful.
Q: I have breast cancer in my family. At what age should I start getting mammograms?
A: You should understand the benefits and potential risks of mammography screening, discuss your personal situation with a trusted healthcare provider, and decide together when to begin screening.
Q: How important are self-breast exams?
A: Self-breast exams are very important, and you should do once a month. This will help you to be familiar with your breasts so that you can notice any changes that may be concerning. If you discover a change, call your doctor to follow up.
Q: Does my weight matter when it comes to my risk of developing breast cancer?
A: Being overweight can be a factor. Excess weight increases estrogen (a hormone) and affects other growth factors. Hormones create a more stimulating environment for cancer cells to grow. Maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause.
Q: I am not overweight, but my diet isn’t the best. I eat a lot of fast food and snacks. Is that a problem?
A: It can be. Sugar feeds cancer cells. You should follow a healthy diet. Eat primarily whole foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Limit alcohol and sugar consumption.
Q: Can smoking affect my chances of getting breast cancer?
A: Yes. The risk of invasive breast cancer is highest in women who began smoking at a young age. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about effective smoking cessation programs.
Q: I work at a desk job, and I don’t get very much exercise. Should I be concerned this may play a role in breast cancer?
A: Women who exercise regularly have lower risks for breast cancer. Start moving more as soon as you can; just 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week can make a difference.
Q: I’ve heard that not getting enough sleep could be a factor is developing breast cancer. Is that true, and if so, why?
A: It may be a factor. Sleep metabolizes stress hormones, and we know that high levels of stress in your life can impact many health factors, including your body’s defenses against cancer.
The bottom line? Keep your breasts healthy by making good lifestyle choices. Talk with your doctor about your breast health during your regular checkups. And be sure to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.