Breast Cancer Awareness
Why do so many women fear Breast Cancer?
Probably because we see many people we know around us, family and friends who have been diagnosed with it. In India now, it is the most common form of cancer in women. Even though the statistics are scary, there is now, more than ever before, hope of a cure due to improvements in detection and treatment.
Breast cancer incidence has increased because modern life has changed the environment both inside and outside our bodies. One way to reduce the risk is to be well-informed and aware of the realities, and to make the necessary changes to curtail their harmful effects.
A lump doesn’t always mean cancer. Most lumps are cysts, fibrosis or benign tumours, or just lumpy breasts. But if you find a lump, get it checked!
Breast cancer doesn’t always present as a lump. There are other physical signs that you should watch out for – skin changes like thickening and redness, changes in shape or size of the breasts, dimpling or puckering, itchy sores, rashes or scaling, pulling in of the nipple, sudden discharge from the nipple, or a persistent, localized pain in the breast.
A family history of breast cancer does not always mean that you will get it too. A majority of women have no identifiable risk factor, not even due to a family history. There are gene mutations like BRCA1 and 2 that are hereditary, but these account for only 5-10% of cancers. If you do have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutations you risk of cancer is significantly high, but the occurrence of cancer is still not certain.
What are the realities?
1. Today, human beings live longer
2. Puberty and breast development is starting earlier than it used to
3. Women are delaying their first pregnancy, not breast feeding at all or feeding inadequately.
4. Use of prescription hormones is on the rise.
5. More women are physically inactive, overweight, even obese, and have low levels of vitamin D.
6. More women smoke, and consume alcohol.
7. Overall, exposure to environmental pollutants in the air, water and food has increased.
8. More women are stressed and more sleep-deprived than ever before.
What can we do to lower the risk?
The lifestyle changes we make today could lower our risk of cancer tomorrow. In addition to being ‘breast aware’ and getting yourself checked regularly, enhance your health by making the right choices.
a. Get to a healthy weight: exercise!
b. Avoid exogenous hormones, especially during menopause.
c. Limit alcohol intake. Do not smoke.
d. Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation (especially things like microwaves and other electronic gadgets).
e. Get lots of fresh air and Vitamin D.
f. Eat adequate antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
g. Select food and beverages carefully. Know your packaging – avoid plastics. h. Choose safe personal and household care products.
i. Sleep well.
j. Manage physical strain and stress.
k. Know your personal and family history – take extra precautionary measures to manage your risk. It’s a tall order, so start now and try your best! Change is a journey and you have to start somewhere.
Whatever first step you take, it should be one in the right direction.
Believe in yourself, and lead by example.