Breast cancer is now the most common type of cancer worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is also the most common cancer among Indian women. While there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are many things you can do to help lower your risk. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer is to get screening tests on a regular basis, which may help find the cancer early when it is easier to treat. The Fortis Hospital, Mulund, is well-known for treatment of cancer. The hospital uses latest and high-end technologies to detect cancer at and early stages, which increases the chances for successful treatment. The oncology department at Fortis also offers comprehensive care, covering entire course of diagnosis, treatment rehabilitation, recovery, and palliative care for managing all types of cancer.
Besides regular screening, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help keep cancer at bay. The truth is certain lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can influence your risk of developing breast cancer or other chronic medical conditions. Consider taking these steps to reduce your risk especially if you are concerned about getting breast cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Make sure that you watch your weight by balancing your diet with physical activity. Studies have shown that obesity increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer - especially after menopause. This is because being obese or overweight causes the body to produce more oestrogen, thereby increasing the risk of some types of breast cancer. Obesity may also raise breast cancer risk in men as well.
- Get moving: It’s important to get regular exercise, which has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that exercise can help lower breast cancer risk while also helping breast cancer survivors live longer. It is recommended that healthy adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week - or a combination of these. What’s more, exercise has immense health benefits, ranging from weight loss to improved physical and mental health.
- Say ‘no’ to smoking: Many studies have shown that smoking can cause certain cancers, including breast cancer. Smoking actually affects almost all the organs in your body - your lungs, heart, blood vessels, bones, skin, etc.
- Avoid or limit alcohol intake: Limit your intake of alcohol to no more than one drink a day. However, it’s best not to drink as even low levels of alcohol consumption have been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Get screened: Monthly self-breast examinations and annual mammograms can help detect cancer at the earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Make sure that you talk to your physician who can guide you with specific screening schedule tailored to your risk profile.
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy: Research suggests that menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy, as well as the different options to manage your symptoms with non-hormonal therapies and medications.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Good nutrition along with regular exercise can help prevent many serious health conditions, including breast cancer and heart disease. Follow a balanced diet consisting of a variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables such as berries, peaches, apples, pears, citrus, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and other leafy greens. Include foods that are high in fibre like whole grains, beans and legumes, which may help prevent the development of progression of breast cancer. Avoid or cut back on red meat and foods high in sugar and saturated fats - such as sodas, sweets, candies, fried and processed foods, etc.
- Try Mediterranean diet: Studies have linked eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet with a lower risk of breast cancer. Basically, a Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil.
- Breastfeed: Studies suggest that that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not. While researchers do not fully understand the reasons, they believe it could be due to the fact that women do not ovulate as regularly while they are breastfeeding and oestrogen levels remain stable - too much oestrogen can increase the risk of certain conditions, including breast cancer.
- Know your family’s history: Individuals with a family history of cancer should take extra precautions to protect themselves. Your chances of getting breast cancer is high if you have a family member - a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc - who developed breast or ovarian cancer, especially at an early age. Talk to a doctor or genetic counsellor who can help you understand your family’s history of the condition and take preventive steps.
Additionally, you should be vigilant about breast cancer detection. Seek medical help without any hesitation if you notice any changes in your breast such as a new lump. Perhaps, making healthier lifestyle choices throughout your life will certainly reduce your risk of breast cancer, or improve your chances of survival if you have the disease.