Few things frighten women more than the annual mammogram. The reminder on the refrigerator strikes dread months before the appointment. The anxiety stems from most of us knowing someone who has had breast cancer. One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Despite promising new research and treatments, the risk remains with us most of our lives.While we seemingly have no control over who and when breast cancer strikes, we can control some of the risks.
Early detection remains key to recovery and survival. Mammograms are still the best tool for early detection. Approximately 90 percent of all breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. The following guidelines are recommended to help women take charge of breast health:
Be familiar with how breasts normally look and feel and immediately report any changes to a healthcare provider;
Start screening mammograms between ages 40 and 44;
Continue annual mammograms from ages 45 to 54;
At age 55, women of average risk can continue annual or switch to biennial mammograms depending on preference;
Screening should continue as long as a women is in good health and expects to live another 10 years or more.
Diet may contribute to about 30 to 40 percent of all cancers. Research indicates that a low-fat diet and one high in vegetables and fiber can help reduce the risk or recurrence of breast cancer. Eating well during treatment can also help rebuild muscle strength and overcome side effects such as anemia or fatigue. Healthy choices to consider include:
Diet low in added sugar and processed foods;
Diet rich in unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products;
Low-fat milk and dairy products;
Lean meats, poultry and fish;
Baked or broiled foods, not fried;
Healthy snacks such as nuts, carrots, fat-free yogurt or bell pepper strips instead of ice cream or candy;
According to the National Institute of Health, regular exercise is vital to good health. Research indicates that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring as much as 46 percent and lessen the risk of an initial diagnosis. Women who exercise regularly during treatment may also experience 40 to 50 percent less fatigue.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do:
At least 2.5 hours to 5 hours per week of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking;
Or 75 minutes to 2.5 hours per week of vigorous exercise such as running, biking or high-intensity cardio;
Muscle-strengthening exercises two or more times per week; weights, yoga and pilates can build muscles.
Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, help women to maintain healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for breast cancer.