Straight from the doctor: Tips for breast cancer prevention

Straight from the doctor: Tips for breast cancer prevention

By Dr. Karishma Kirti, Consultant Breast Specialist and Oncoplastic Surgeon

Image - Dr. Karishma Kirti

Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among women worldwide, but the good news is that there are steps women can take to reduce their risk. There is no single reason for breast cancer. There are many risk factors and the exact mechanism of breast carcinogenesis is not completely understood. While some risk factors such as genetics cannot be altered, many others are within our control through lifestyle changes and proactive measures.

Non-modifiable Risk Factors:

1. Family History and Genetics: Women with close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer are at higher risk. Mutations in certain genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 significantly increase susceptibility.
2. Age: Risk increases with age.
3. Gender: Breast cancer predominantly affects women, although men can also develop it.
4. Early Menstruation and Late Menopause: Women who began menstruating before age 12 or underwent menopause after 55 are at a higher risk due to longer exposure to hormones.

Modifiable Risk Factors:

1. Lifestyle Choices: Poor diet, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can elevate the risk of breast cancer.
2. Weight Management: Obesity or being overweight, especially after menopause, increases the risk.
3. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Long-term use of combined estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy can heighten the risk.
4. Breastfeeding: Not breastfeeding or breastfeeding for a shorter duration may increase susceptibility.
Tips for Prevention: Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or drug that prevents breast cancer completely but making some lifestyle changes can definitely reduce the risk.

Adopting Healthy Habits:

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Aim for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting processed foods and sugary beverages.
2. Regular Exercise: Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
3. Limit Alcohol Consumption: If you drink, do so in moderation. Limit intake to one drink per day or avoid alcohol altogether.

Hormonal Health:

1. Limit Hormone Therapy: Discuss alternatives with your gynaecologist and use hormone replacement therapy at the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration. Take breaks in oral contraceptive pills and explore other reliable methods of contraception available.
2. Avoiding late first pregnancy: Having your first full term pregnancy before the age of 30 reduces the chances of developing breast cancer.
3. Breastfeeding: Whenever possible, aim to breastfeed your infants as it may lower your risk of breast cancer.
While making changes in lifestyle can reduce the chance of developing breast cancer, the risk is never zero. Therefore, catching cancer early with different screening methods is equally important. Understanding your baseline risk is important. Screening recommendations differ based on risk an individual.

1. Mammograms: Women aged 40 and above should undergo regular mammograms as recommended by their healthcare provider, generally annually or biennially.
2. Clinical Breast Exams: Regular clinical breast exams by a healthcare professional can aid in early detection. This should be started at 30 years.
3. Self-Breast Examination: Perform monthly self-breast examinations to detect any changes such as lumps, swelling, or skin dimpling, and report any concerns promptly to your healthcare provider starting at the age of 25 years.

While breast cancer cannot always be prevented, adopting a healthy lifestyle and being proactive about screening significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease. By understanding the risk factors and taking appropriate steps, women can empower themselves in the fight against breast cancer. So, take charge of your health today, because prevention truly is the best medicine!

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