Breast Cancer – How You Can Help Protect Yourself

Roughly one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Luckily, thanks to advances in early detection and treatment, most women survive it, but the best possible scenario is to avoid it altogether. While there’s no surefire way to prevent breast cancer, there are lifestyle choices that can effectively lower your risk.

Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
You’ve likely been hearing this recommendation your whole life, and for good reason. The nutrients, waste-flushing fiber and compounds known as flavonoids and carotenoids in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of breast and certain other cancers as well as a host of other diseases. Studies have demonstrated the protective benefits of dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, romaine, etc.), bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits, apples, pears, strawberries, peaches and other foods that support the immune system and help prevent disease.

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Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise bolsters cardiovascular health, helps the body sweep out waste more effectively and strengthens the immune system. Because everyone has cells with DNA damage that may become susceptible to mutation, it’s important to keep your immune system strong so these cells don’t morph into cancer. Regular exercise promotes a strong immune response, a key to staying cancer-free.

Limit Alcohol
Whether it’s red wine, hard cider or spirits like scotch and vodka, all alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The less you drink, the better in terms of prevention. If you don’t want to give up alcohol completely, reduce the amount you drink. It’s frustrating news for drinkers, but given the statistical evidence, no amount of booze comes without some increased risk.

Stop Smoking
The carcinogens and other toxic elements in tobacco can weaken your immune system and invite cells to mutate, which may not be isolated to the cells in your lungs. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about medication and programs designed to help you stop.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Many Americans struggle with weight issues, especially as they get older. But adopting the previous tips – eating more fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise and reducing or stopping drinking alcohol, can all help you lose weight. Also cut out or reduce your consumption of processed, ready-made foods. For most people, committing to these practices leads to natural and sustainable weight management.

Engage in Early Detection
Check your breasts for changes every month, ideally 3 to 5 days into your menstrual cycle when your breasts are least likely to be tender and house excess fluid. If you no longer have periods, perform the exam on the same day every month. Feel carefully for new lumps or bumps that feel dense and/or stationary, or fixed in place. Visit your gynecologist regularly and have him or her perform a breast exam as well.

It’s also important to begin having regular screening mammograms to catch cancer early, before it can be felt by your fingers. RAI offers 3D mammography™ exams, the gold standard of breast cancer testing, which is up to 40% more accurate than other mammography exams, especially among women with dense breast tissue. Women considered at high risk should begin routine screening at age 40, or even earlier if recommended by your doctor. Women at average risk should begin by age 50 and get screened every one to two years.

When caught early, breast cancer is highly survivable. And, with the right lifestyle choices, it may be avoidable.