The A, B, C and Double Ds of Healthy Breasts
At the turn of the century, 1 in 90 women had breast cancer. Today it’s 1 in 9. Despite advances in research and treatment, breast cancer continues to take a significant toll on women in our country. Many risk factors for breast cancer can’t be changed: family history, the age at which you get your first period, and the age at which you go through menopause.
However, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, at least 50 percent of cancers can be prevented through healthy living. Below are some lifestyle choices that can help contribute to healthy breasts and reduce the risk of breast cancer:
• Eat a diet high in fibre. Flaxseeds, oat bran, fruits, and vegetables are all great sources of fibre. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain cancer-fighting nutrients.
• Minimize your intake of saturated fat and avoid trans fats.
• Maintain a healthy body weight.
• Be physically active. Studies show that even moderate physical activity may reduce your risk by 30 to 40 percent. Spend at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week doing aerobic activities such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
• Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day, or cut it out altogether.
• Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding seems to offer protection against breast cancer, plus it’s good for the baby.
• Don’t smoke. Smoking and breathing second-hand smoke can increase the risk of breast cancer, along with many other health problems.
• Only use hormone replacement therapy if absolutely necessary and for a short period of time (less than five years).
Consider healthy breast supplements that aid detoxification of estrogens such as indole-3 carbinol, calcium D-glucarate, curcumin, milk thistle and green tea.
• Minimize your exposure to chemicals that have been linked to increased cancer risk such as dioxins, phthalates, pesticides, and herbicides. Some of these chemicals are referred to as xenoestrogens because they have estrogen-like activity in the body. Dioxins are found most abundantly in farmed fish and in the fumes from incinerated waste. Phthalates are found in plastics, particularly when they are heated or reused, and pesticides and herbicides are concentrated in non-organic produce. For information on chemicals and disease, refer to the CHE Toxicant and Disease Database, http://database.healthandenvironment.org/.
Breast Self Exam (BSE)
Examining yourself on a routine basis allows you to become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. This can help you become aware of any changes that may occur. Learn how to do a Self Breast Exam here.
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
A clinical breast exam is an examination by a healthcare professional who uses his/her hands to feel for lumps or other changes that might indicate anything other than healthy breasts. Many women have a CBE as part of their regular health check-up. If you are between 40-49 year of age it is recommended that you have a CBE at least every two years.