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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

September 30, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 232,340 women were newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2013. Additionally, although it’s considered rare, an estimated 2,240 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 as well. These alarming statistics prove that breast cancer continues to be a major threat to the health of today’s society. Due to breast cancer’s constant threat to human lives, the American Cancer Society, beginning in 1985, dubbed the entire month of October, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

Today, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” has grown into a national outreach program that has clearly had a positive impact on a victim’s ability to survive breast cancer. In fact, as of 2012, over 2.9 million women were currently living with and surviving breast cancer! Now more than ever, those who are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer have a fighting chance to survive and live a normal life.

Of course, a large part of breast cancer awareness is knowing ways to prevent it, or in cases where that is not possible, taking steps to diagnose it early. Here, we have listed ways you can decrease your risk for getting breast cancer, and ways you can have it diagnosed early if prevention is not possible. Although these tips are generally geared toward helping women, men should pass these tips along to their female loved ones, and also seek out a doctor for themselves if they notice any changes in their own breasts.

Breast Cancer Awareness Tips

  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women should limit intake to no more than one drink per day, regardless of the type of alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Do not smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in pre-menopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, as it can also be the cause for a number of other cancers, including but not limited to, lung cancer, and other illnesses.
  • Get regular breast cancer screenings. Women should follow their doctor or health care provider’s recommendations to decide what type of screenings they need and how often they need it. If a woman is at high risk for breast cancer, such as having a mutated BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene (genes that normally produce tumor suppressor proteins, but do not work properly if mutated), has a strong family history, or has had high-risk benign breast disease in the past, she should talk with her doctor about other options which might include:
    • Extra screenings. For some women, MRI or ultrasound screenings can add valuable information to regular mammogram screenings;
    • Estrogen-blocking drugs. Women with a family history of breast cancer or who are over age 60 should talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors (Now covered 100% as “Preventive Care Medications” under the NYCDCC Welfare Fund Plan.)
  • Control weight and be physically active. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause. Physical activity can help women maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
  • Eat healthy. Make an effort to embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit, and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods. Also try to eat lean protein such as fish or chicken breast, and eat red meat in moderation. You should also attempt to eat whole grains, and choose vegetable oils over animal fats.
  • Breast-feed child after pregnancy. Women who just recently had a child or plan on having one in the near future, may want to consider breast feeding. Studies show that breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. The general belief is that, the longer a woman breast-feeds, the greater the protective effect.
  • Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with breast cancer risk. Women should reduce their exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the chemicals found in some workplaces, gasoline fumes, and vehicle exhaust.

For more information about breast cancer, you can visit www.cancer.org.