October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Health Net hopes women will use this post as a reminder to discuss – based on history and lifestyle – the right plan for their breast health care. According to the American Cancer Society, all women should have a yearly mammogram after forty years old. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Breast cancer awareness starts long before a mammogram is due, and continues alongside any screenings you have well into your forties … and beyond.
Here are some things you can do to help decrease your risk of a disease that about one in eight American women will be diagnosed with at some point in their lives.
Initiate a conversation. Discuss with your doctor when to begin breast cancer screenings, exams and tests, such as clinical breast exams and mammograms. Find out as much history as you can about the women in your family, and discuss which screenings are best for you, such as test referrals for BRCA1. Also talk about things like hormone replacement therapy or other medications you’re taking.
Self-assess. Inspect your breasts with regular self-exams. By doing so, you’ll get a feel for which bumps and changes are normal and which ones are unusual and need attention. While this isn’t necessarily a prevention tactic, it certainly helps in getting early treatment should you feel or see a change.
Get moving. Educate yourself on the facts about weight gain and loss pre- and post-menopausal. Studies say that women who gain 55 pounds after age 18 years old have a 45-percent higher risk of breast cancer. After menopause, women who gain 20 pounds or more had an 18-percent higher risk compared to those who gained little or no weight. At the very least, women should be getting 30 minutes of daily exercise to help keep a healthy body.
Eat healthy. There are many diets today that you can follow to stay at an appropriate weight, keep your bones strong and your heart healthy. As a general rule:
- Strive to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day.
- Add more beans, grains and fruit into your diet.
- Include plenty of heart-healthy fats in your diet, such as olive oil, avocados and nut butters.
Know what to eliminate. While it’s okay to enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, studies do show that regular alcohol consumption and long-term, heavy smoking may increase your risk of breast cancer.
So, if you haven’t already this year, make an appointment to see your doctor and discuss your breast health. You owe it to yourself … and to those who love you.