7 ways to stay A-Breast of cancerTuesday, October 19, 2021
BY KELSEY THOMAS
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Prevention is better than cure. And with breast cancer being the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaican women, it is extremely important to be proactive in minimising one's risk by implementing good health practices in our lifestyles.
Although some risk factors can't be helped such as family history, and there's no sure way to prevent breast cancer, these seven steps can help to lower your risk of developing the disease or help you detect it at an early stage.
1. Do self-examinations
Knowing your breast is important so that you can immediately spot any lumps or changes that could be of concern. Do your self-examinations using the pads of your three middle fingers —not fingertips— and utilise an up-and-down pattern or a spiral pattern to inspect the entire breast.
Doctors recommend using three different levels of pressure as you feel for lumps, unusual thickness or any other changes — light pressure for the tissue closest to the skin surface, medium pressure for a deeper examination, and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to your breastbone and ribs.
Breast self-examination should be performed at the same time each month, a week after your menstrual period ends. If you have stopped menstruating, the exam should be performed on the same day of each month. If you are concerned about the texture of your breast, you should see a doctor.
2. Have regular screening/mammograms
Doctors say regular screening help to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Mammograms (breast x-rays) are the best way to detect breast cancer for most women of screening age and can lower their risk of dying. Women are recommended to consider having regular mammograms once they have reached the age of 40.
3. Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
According to studies, being overweight can increase your risk of many cancers including breast cancer so it is therefore important to keep your weight in check. This can be done through exercising which helps you to maintain a healthy weight or lose the pounds you need to.
4. Eat healthily
Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy diet will also lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
5. Limit alcohol
Studies show that alcohol increases your risk of developing breast cancer. As a result, restricting your alcohol consumption to the generally recommended one drink a day can help you to remain cancer-free.
Breastfeeding isn't only beneficial for children, because it also offers great health benefits for mothers by lowering their risk of breast cancer.
7. Limit post-menopausal hormone therapy
Studies show that hormone replacement therapy which involves a combination of estrogen and progestin increases the risk of breast cancer and also increases breast density, therefore, making it harder to detect breast cancer using mammograms. However, this increased risk usually dissipates within three years of stopping the hormones.
The National Health Fund outlines the warning signs of breast cancer to include; a painless lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists throughout the menstrual cycle; a change in the size, shape or contour of the breast; a blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple; a change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed); redness of the skin on the breast or nipple; an area which is distinctly different from any other area on either breast; and a marble-like hardened area under the skin.
If you suspect that you might have breast cancer, you should see a doctor immediately.