Men and women – beware! You are both likely to get breast cancer if you don’t adopt the ways of breast cancer prevention. And that is possible only if you follow certain ways and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Aren’t we seeing pink everywhere this month? And why not because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
I know it’s nearly the end of the month, but it’s never too late to create awareness, isn’t it? Nor should we limit ourselves to spread the word, just based on months and dates. Anytime is a good time to start!
It saddens my heart though when I see many people suffer from breast cancer – more so when they aren’t even aware they have it, or learn about it much later. Do you know of such family or friends?
Some are just diagnosed with it, while others are in the final stages of this deadly disease. Few of them just give up, while others fight it out bravely – just like my Mom did, though she had lung cancer.
However, we mostly tend to forget that breast cancer can be prevented.
If you remember, I’d written a detailed post on the topic – Does a Painful Breast Indicate Breast Cancer, where I’d explained everything about how it affects us, and much more. Do read it!
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S., with one is every eight women developing breast cancer.
You all know that women get breast cancer, but did you know that men too are affected by this dreadful cancer? Did you know that male breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers?
One percent might sound small, but if you take it in terms of people involved, it’s a big number!
Nearly 2,200 new cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., alone, while approximately 330,000 are diagnosed in women?
Aren’t these stats shocking, and a clear indication that we better wake up and try to prevent breast cancer as much as possible, in our own way?
Breast cancer affects both men and women, so I’m going to write a little about male breast cancer, which is often forgotten, followed by breast cancer prevention tips for both.
“Most breast cancer-related deaths can be prevented through simple and painless preventive measures. A late diagnosis can result in more serious, long-term consequences.” ~ Olympia Snowe
An Overview of Contents
Male Breast Cancer Prevention
The survival rate for both men and women suffering from breast cancer is similar, when their diagnosis is similar.
However, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed at a later stage, which makes it less likely to be cured and more important to be cared about.
According to research, the survival rate for male breast cancer is below 10% that of female breast cancer patients. That’s because women are routinely checked.
More so, when they age and the cancer tends to show up in the mammograms. But with men, they usually walk in when they feel a large lump in their chest or complain of pain.
Generally, men are diagnosed with breast cancer at a more advanced stage as compared to women.
There are no guaranteed ways for preventing breast cancer in men. However, early detection and prompt treatment of breast cancer can help it from spreading.
You need to be aware of how your breasts feel and look. If there are any unusual symptoms like discharge or a lump, you must let your physician know.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is essential to prevent male breast cancer, besides other health issues.
“There can be life after breast cancer. The prerequisite is early detection.” ~ Ann Jillian
Breast Cancer Prevention Tips for Men and Women
Preventing breast cancer is not easy, but if you follow these tips and suggestions, you might reduce your risks to quite an extent.
1. Get your check up done regularly
If you get yourself screened regularly, you’re more likely to detect breast cancer early, which can help in the prevention of breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society:
• If there is no family history of breast cancer and if you are of average risk, get your yearly mammograms and clinical breast examination done, starting at age 40.
• Women in their 20s and 30s, need to get a clinical breast exam done every 3 years.
• Know how your breast feels normally, so that you can report any changes in appearance or texture, or if there is any bleeding, crusting, and pain to your doctor.
• Those women who are at higher risk might have to get screening done much earlier and more often and also consider getting a screening MRI done.
If there is any kind of breast pain or if you feel there is discomfort or tenderness – you should wear a sports bra during exercise.
Women – ensure that your sports bra fits well, and keeps the breasts motionless. You need to take care to replace your sports bra every 6 months because the material stretches and loses its shape.
2. Watch your weight
If you are obese and overweight, the risk of breast cancer increases.
The foods high in fat make you obese and add to the causes of breast cancer because they increase the amount of estrogen in the blood, which is linked with breast cancer.
If you are a woman, you need to be all the more careful if obesity occurs later in life, especially after menopause.
Before menopause, the ovaries produce most of the estrogen in women; after menopause, when the ovaries stop producing the hormone, it’s the fat tissues that produce the hormone. Thus, the more the fat in a woman’s body, the more the estrogen.
Try to maintain a body-mass index under 25.
3. Eat the right fats
Maintain a balance of carbohydrate, fats, and protein in your diet. You need to limit your fat intake by 20 percent of your overall caloric intake.
Concentrate on omega-3 fats, which are found in abundance in oily fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel etc. Flax seeds are the best source of omega-3 for vegetarians.
Flax seeds are high in fiber and in lignans, a phytoestrogen that help in breast cancer prevention. Eating freshly ground flax seeds is better than taking it in the form of a capsule.
You need to know about the good fats and bad fats. Reduce saturated and trans fat, or the “bad fats”. These omega-6 fats are found in oils like sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and corn.
Instead, eat more of the “good fats”, or the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, found in oils like canola, olive, nuts, seeds, and avocados as they have anticancer properties.
4. Concentrate on eating the right kind of food
Minimize all whites in your diet!
Try to lessen white flour, white rice, white potatoes, sugar and products containing them because such foods bring about hormonal changes that promote cellular growth in breast tissue.
Concentrate on a diet that is healthy and full of fruits and vegetables. At least five portions or at least 2 ½ cups a day is usually recommended.
Include fibers like whole meal bread, and cereals like muesli and oats in your diet. Opt for beans and legumes because they are high in fiber.
Studies indicate that a diet high in plant-based foods reduces the risk of breast cancer, especially estrogen receptor negative cancer.
Some good tips to take care of your diet, which help in the prevention of breast cancer, are –
• Include soy in your diet as they have the ability to partly block estrogen receptors in the breast. Soy products like tempeh, tofu, soy milk, miso, soy roasted nuts help to reduce breast cancer risk.
Research indicates that consuming soy foods in childhood and adolescences helps in preventing breast cancer. However, soy foods should be avoided after the diagnosis of breast cancer because of its estrogen-like effect.
• Limit your intake of processed and red meat. Instead, choose chicken, fish, or beans. If you reduce the consumption of dairy, meat, and gluten to one serving daily, it helps to improve your hormone metabolism.
• Eat more of cruciferous vegetables because they help in breast cancer prevention. These include cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and others, which are all rich in anti-cancer compounds.
It’s best to eat cruciferous vegetables raw or slightly cooked because some of the chemicals they produce that might help in the prevention of breast cancer are destroyed by heat.
• Other vegetables like carrots and tomatoes are good. Even chard, spinach, and asparagus are breast cancer prevention foods because of their high percentage of folate and antioxidant carotenoids.
• Try eating seaweeds like nori and kelp. Japanese women show a lower breast cancer risk, perhaps because of their high consumption of kelp. You could try chlorella and spirulina in a glass of juice daily. Chlorella and kelp have shown anti-carcinogenic effects.
• Onions that are rich in quercetin – reduces estrogen receptor activity in breast tumors. Even garlic, mushroom, and green tea help to prevent breast cancer.
• Have more of berries. Blueberries help to prevent cancer, while strawberries and raspberries have antioxidant properties and reduce the breast cancer cell growth in vitro.
• Herbs and spices are also known for anticancer properties, and are often compared to cancer-fighting drugs, thus include them in your diet.
• Beware of sweets and sodas! Although artificial sweeteners don’t increase breast cancer risk, but drinking diet sodas that depend on artificial sweeteners is linked with weight gain, which raises your chances of developing breast cancer.
5. Regularly exercises and be physically active
Many studies suggest that regular exercises helps breast cancer prevention. It’s recommended to opt for 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, and strength training at least twice a week.
Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking, five or more days a week. Studies found that women who walked briskly for 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours a week had 18% less risk of breast cancer, as compared to those who were inactive.
For men, cardio thrice a week and strength training on the other days is the best combination.
Remember to be consistent. This surely is a reminder for me too 🙂 Do you walk or exercise regularly?
Sometimes it becomes challenging to exercise, especially if you are going through breast cancer treatment. At such times, listen to your body, and do what you can do, or exercise when your body allows it.
6. Quit smoking
Research indicates a link between breast cancer and smoking, especially in premenopausal women. Additionally, smoking is injurious to your overall health, so why smoke!
Breastfeeding may play a role in preventing breast cancer. Women who breastfeed their babies for at least a year, reduce their risk of breast cancer later. Thus, the longer you breast-feed, the better it is.
8. Avoid exposure to environmental pollution and radiation
Exposure to certain medical-imaging methods like using high dose of radiation or computerized tomography might increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Thus, go in for such tests only when necessary.
Avoid estrogen-like compounds that are found in the environmental pollutants like industrial chemicals and pesticides. Alternatively, buy organic produce, or else wash all non-organic produce before consumption.
9. Avoid hormone replacement therapy
Breast cancer risk increases if you continue combination hormone therapy for over three to five years. Consult your doctor for other options if you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms.
Remember, your breast cancer risk increase with menopausal hormone therapy. If you must take them, avoid the ones with progesterone, and limit their usage for less than three years.
Even the hormonal creams and gels, or bioidentical hormones aren’t safe as compared to the prescribed hormones, and should be avoided if possible.
Recent studies indicate that the drug exemestane helps reduces the risk of breast cancer by nearly 65 percent in high-risk postmenopausal women. Consult your doctor, whether this would benefit you.
According to the National Institutes of Health, if you are taking HT (hormone therapy), then you and your doctor should reevaluate the decision every 6 months.
10. Choose an estrogen-blocking drug
If you have a family history of breast cancer, or if you are above 60 years, you should talk to your doctor about estrogen-blocking drugs like raloxifene and tamoxifen, and know more about their pros and cons.
11. Limit your alcohol intake
Remember, you are more at risk of developing breast cancer, if you drink more alcohol.
For women – if you do choose to drink alcohol like liquor, wine, or beer, then limit your intake to not more than one drink daily.
For men – if you must, then drink alcohol only in moderation. You should limit your alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks a day.
Those drinking alcohol should try to consume enough folic acid through multivitamins, or through foods like leafy green vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, oranges, and orange juice.
12. Sleep well
You all need sleep, but women need consistent sleep cycles, at least five nights every week.
Research indicated that shift workers have higher rates of breast cancer compared to their peers. Thus, you need to maintain a consistent sleep cycle for proper hormonal balance.
13. De-Stress and enjoy life
It’s a well known fact that stress can lead to lots of health problems. Chronic or extreme stress might activate cancer.
Many women are diagnosed with cancer after a loss or divorce. It’s tough to lead a stress free life, but if you learn how to manage your stress, you can reduce your chances of getting many other ailments beside breast cancer.
According to a survey, women who reported of severe stress in the previous few years were 50% more likely to have breast cancer.
You need to find ways to reduce stress by following a daily stress reduction plan. Even if you do it for 15 minutes, it helps. Try out meditation, yoga, prayers, exercise, tai chi, and massage – these help!
14. Check your calcium and vitamin intake
Ensure you get adequate vitamin D and calcium daily. For women aged 51 to 70, it means 600 IU of vitamin D, and 1,200 mg of calcium, while for men it’s 600 IU of vitamin and 1,000 mg of calcium.
15. Learn to relax
Lastly, common for both men and women, and most importantly – learn to relax!
You need to self-nurture yourself and maintain a positive mental outlook. Get adequate sleep, 7-8 hours per night, because the mind-body association with breast cancer cannot be ignored.
By making healthy lifestyle choices you could help lower your breast cancer risk, besides reducing the risk for diabetes, heart diseases, and others.
Here is a wonderful video telling us about some breast cancer prevention tips that would surely help you.
Dr. Anne McTiernan ~ 10 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention ~ YouTube Vdieo
Remember, that exercising, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and being careful about screening can help you in preventing breast cancer, and also its recurrence.
“Breast cancer changes you, and the change can be beautiful.” ~ Jane Cook (Breast cancer survivor)
Now that you know that prevention of breast cancer IS possible – what are you waiting for?
Go ahead and change your life, and start leading a healthier lifestyle if you aren’t already 🙂
Over to you –
Are you a breast cancer survivor or know of anyone who has/had breast cancer? Do you think these breast cancer prevention tips would help to bring about a change? What additional ways of preventing breast cancer would you suggest? Share in the comments.
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