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Breast Cancer Demands Early Detection

woman holding pink breast cancer ribbon in front of stethoscope

Breast Cancer Prevention, Risks and Treatment

By Jennifer Footit-Tank, quality care coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 2/26/2021 at 2:00 p.m.

If you’re like others, you’ve likely been feeling short on control lately. With coronavirus still spreading rapidly and the social uncertainty surrounding the disease, many parts of our lives have been out of our control for the past year or more. Non-emergency medical care may have been one of those things that has fallen off the radar, but taking control of breast health is as important as it has ever been.

Per the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer remains the second most common cancer among women in the United States. The good news is that, while it can’t be prevented, early detection offers the best chance for breast cancer treatment and remission.

Am I at risk for developing breast cancer?

Being aware of your personal risk for breast cancer will help you make room for detection and implement lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk. There are several factors that may affect your chance of developing breast cancer.

  • Age – The older we get the more the chance increases.
  • Family history – Breast cancer appears to run in families. Some cancers are linked to genes called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 meaning genetic screenings may be a good indicator for the likelihood of developing some types of breast cancer.
  • Sex – Those assigned women at birth are more likely to develop breast cancer than those assigned men.
  • Race – Caucasian (white) women are at greater risk than other races for developing breast cancer.
  • Breast tissue density – The denser the breast tissue, the higher the risk of breast cancer development.

Can I prevent breast cancer?

There are no clear causes for breast cancer and no proven way to prevent it. Focusing on healthy habits offers you a way to decrease your risk and live your healthiest life.

What can I do to limit my risk of breast cancer?

You cannot control the risk factors mentioned above, but you can manage areas to keep healthy. The following steps are ones you can take to help mitigate and limit the risk of breast cancer.

Get screened for breast cancer

Breast cancer screening is the best way to manage your breast health. Early detection allows for the greatest chances of successful treatment. Screening can be completed through a mammogram or screening MRI.

Regular screenings should begin by age 40 and continue through age 74 for women who fall in average risk category. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have breast implants or a physical disability are encouraged to schedule a screening mammogram. These tests need to be ordered by your personal doctor.

Reduce or eliminate stressors

Like many ailments, breast cancer risk is increased by the presence of high amounts of stress. Think about the things in your life that cause stress and how you can either cut back on those things or more effectively manage the stress they cause. Conversely, think about what brings meaning to your life and how you can make more time for those important de-stressing activities.

Make lots of room in your day for activity

Keep moving. Physical activity helps reduce your risk of many diseases, breast cancer among them. What kind of physical activity can you fit into your life? What types of activities do you love and how do they make you feel? Remember, regular physical activity keeps you healthy.

Get plenty of good sleep

Good sleep allows your immune system to reboot and better protect you. If you feel like you’re short on Zs, evaluate what is interrupting your sleep and find ways to either cut back on those things, get to bed earlier or sleep in later to get the recommended amount. Read more about the whole-body benefits of sleep.

Ensure adequate nutrition

Think about the foods you’re eating every day. How do they make you feel? Can you increase the needed grains, fruits and vegetables to keep you healthy? Are you staying on top of important vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber? Aligning your diet with physician-recommended foods and quantities will help you feel better and fight off the risk of diseases like breast cancer.

Limit alcohol consumption or cut it entirely

When it comes to substances like alcohol, moderation is key. Although some alcohol, like a single glass of red wine, can have health benefits, limiting intake to recommended amounts or cutting it entirely will help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Keep your body weight in check

If your body weight and body fat percentages are higher than your doctor recommends, this can increase your risk for breast cancer. Speak with your personal doctor about the correct weight for your body type and strategies to achieve or maintain this weight.

Regularly conduct a breast self-exam

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, monthly breast exams allow 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers to be found early. Have your provider show you how to correctly complete this exam at your next wellness visit. Discovering a lump could mean the difference between early detection and having to wait for your next medical screening, at which point the chance of successful treatment may be reduced.

Can I still get a breast cancer screening during the coronavirus?

Yes, breast cancer screenings are as important as ever. You can and should still schedule your breast cancer exams. As with any trips into the public during the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic, be safe. Mind the following guidelines from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Wear a face mask when you leave your home. This is mandatory in Wisconsin.
  • Give yourself a few extra minutes as you will most likely be screened upon entry to the medical facility.
  • Practice social distancing while in the waiting room. Many clinics facilitate this now by spacing out seats in their waiting areas or placing signs on seats near each other to prevent transmission by close contact.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible after touching public surfaces or items.

While breast cancer can’t be prevented, following the recommendations to improve your breast health through lifestyle changes, screening mammograms and a wellness visit with your personal doctor are important parts of maintaining your overall health and well-being.

So much of our lives are out of our control right now, but don’t let your breast health be one of those things. Contact your personal doctor today and see which screenings you should get.

For more information about how your Network Health plan can keep you as healthy as possible and your risk for diseases like breast cancer low, contact us today.

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