Breast health tips, advice and awareness

breastBreast cancer is the most common cancer in the United Kingdom and it affects about 55,000 people annually, including 400 men. The risk factors attached to breast cancer are varied, but the most important ones are gender (female), age and a family history of the disease. Breast cancer is a killer; however, if the disease is caught early, recovery rates are good. In order to keep our breasts and ourselves healthy, it is essential to regularly check them for any changes or new lumps that may have developed. Any alterations in the feel of tissue, shape or secretions should be reported to your doctor and a mammography or breast screening may be arranged to investigate further.

So what steps can we take to reduce our exposure to the risks of breast cancer? Here are some lifestyle tips and nuggets of info aimed at keeping our breasts safe from harm.

Lose the weight

Being overweight is a known factor in increasing the likelihood of breast cancer. Retaining a healthy weight is beneficial in helping you fight off and survive the disease if you contract it. Try to keep your body mass index to 25 or below and avoid gaining the pounds over time. Enjoy a diet high in fruit and vegetables, low in sugar, salt and animal fats. Keep red meat to a minimum and eat lean white meat and oily fish, whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Eating brightly coloured food has been shown to have beneficial effects, include vegetables high in healthy carotenoids such as sweet potato, squash, carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens for the full effect. Other foods that research shows have breast health benefits include pomegranates, green tea and mushrooms.

breast-1Get fit

Regular exercise, up to 45 minutes a day five days a week is the recommended amount to retain a healthy weight, boost the immune system and reduce levels of oestrogen and insulin – all factors that will help in the fight against contracting breast cancer.

Wage war on bad habits

As little as two alcoholic drinks per day are known to increase the risk of breast cancer in women by 21 per cent. Exchanging wine for fresh grapes could be beneficial however; as a substance in the skin called Resveratrol is thought to reduce oestrogen levels, lessening the risk of breast cancer.

Don’t smoke because research suggests long term cigarette use increases a woman’s risk of contracting breast cancer – as well as a number of other well publicised conditions detrimental to health.

Go green

Cruciferous vegetables, that’s green stuff like broccoli and kale, are a great addition to a low fat, healthy diet. In addition, the substance called sulforafane contained in such greens, helps fight against cancer cells multiplying. Mum was right; didn’t she always say ‘Eat your greens!’?

Learn from history

Knowing the family medical history is crucial. In fifteen per cent of breast cancers there is an element of family history. If you have one close (first degree) relative with breast cancer the risk doubles, and if there are two it increases to five fold. These risks are assessed over a lifetime, but all the same, it is essential to be aware of familial health and its possible implications for your own well-being.

doctors-2Take your exams

In the United Kingdom regular clinical breast exams are recommended for all women over the age of fifty. However, if there is a family history of the disease, more frequent checks are advisable. In younger women, when mammograms do not provide enough information sometimes MRI scans or sonography are used to examine breast tissue in greater detail.

It’s in the genes

Genetic testing is becoming more widely accepted as a way of identifying an individual’s risk of contracting breast cancer. If you think you may have the BRCA gene which is known to influence the development of breast cancer, then take advice and counselling on whether or not testing is for you.

Avoid HRT

Hormone replacement therapy should be avoided as it increases the menopausal risk of contracting breast cancer. If you must take it to help manage menopausal symptoms, try and limit the time it is taken to three years and avoid treatments containing progesterone.

Breast is best

Breast feeding is universally considered a good thing for babies, but it can also be beneficial to the mother. Women who bear children and breast feed for up to a year reduce their chances of contracting breast cancer at a later date.

So there you have a run-down of some top breast health tips. Remember, if you are in any doubt about any changes in your breasts; get them examined by a doctor.