October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, created to increase awareness about its cause, prevention, treatment and cure. This public support has improved the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer as survival rates have increased and the number of deaths have declined. Despite such improvements, breast cancer, after skin cancer, is still the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States (breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it's far more common in women). Based on recent breast cancer incidence rates, experts estimate that one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Althought October is coming to an end, breast cancer awareness remains an important issue. Younger women generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer but the truth is that breast cancer can strike at any age and women should be aware of the risk factors for breast cancer. By making simple lifestyle choices, women can reduce their chances of a breast cancer diagnosis. While nothing can prevent breast cancer completely, these five tips can help.
1. Get Screened Regularly
Regularly examining your breasts on your own can be an important way to find a breast cancer early, which is when it's more likely to be treated successfully. The American Cancer Society recommends screening every year beginning at age 40. Until then, try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel (in addition to your regular physical exams by a doctor).
The American Cancer Society recommends that you should examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. Choose a day that's easy to remember, such as the first or last day of the month. If you're not sure how to give yourself an examination ask your doctor or click here for instructions.
2. Don't Smoke
There are so many reasons that you shouldn't be smoking inlcuding the potential risk of lung cancer and heart disease. Women who smoke have an increased risk of breast cancer and the earlier you start, the higher the risk. Studies suggest women who start smoking at a young age are more likely to develop breast cancer, and smoking for many years increases this risk significantly. So if you're still smoking, now is the time to quit!
3. Let's Get Physical
Experts from breastcancer.org say that women who exercise regularly are 15 to 25 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than less active women. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly work out or become a gym rat. 30 minutes of walking for five days a week will do the trick. Try biking around campus or going for a walk in the glen!
4. Eat Right
It's been proven that a healthy diet can lower your risk of breast cancer, and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk. The American Cancer Society suggests eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Use vegetable oils instead of animal fats, and keep sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods to a minimum (there’s no need to cut them out completely!).
5. Cut back on drinking
I'm sure a few of you are laughing or deeming this tip as impossible given the drinking culture at Hamilton, but The American Cancer Society says that that alcohol raises the risk of cancer, including breast cancer. This doesn't mean you have to stop drinking all together but drinking heavily and very often will increase your chances of a breast cancer diagnosis. Women who drink two to five drinks a day are one and a half times more likely to develop breast cancer.