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What a Difference a Year Makes: Breast Cancer Awareness Is Not Just a Month!

Updated: Oct 7, 2021


A year ago, I wrote a breast cancer awareness blog never thinking a few months later I would be diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. After my yearly mammogram in March, I got the call that I needed to come back for more tests. Six weeks later, I had completed surgery and intraoperative radiation (a one-shot dose of radiation during surgery) and was on the road to recovery. I feel very fortunate to have had such a positive outcome…. all due to early detection. Breast cancer death rates among women declined 40% from 1989 to 2016 and this progress has been attributed to improvements in early detection.

a Research consistentl Re Studies have shown that excess weight in post-menopausal women is linked to an increased risk .... interestingly excess weight does not seem to increase breast cancer risk prior to menopause. Excess weight means more estrogen circulating in the body which can increase the risk of postmenopausal estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, increased chronic low-grade inflammation in the body which may enhance the production of free radicals leading to DNA damage, and insulin resistance leading to high levels of insulin in the body, a signal for tumor growth.wth.th.th.h.ting in 2-3 hours per week of activity was associated with.an average risk reduction of about 9% while those women who participated in 6.5 hours per week or more showed a decreased risk of 30% (Lynch et al, 2011).1).

Early detection means finding and identifying a disease earlier than if you’d waited for symptoms to start. Screening exams include monthly breast self-exams, as well as scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Research shows that breast cancers found during screening exams tend to be smaller and still confined to the breast. While 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99% when the cancer is detected early and is localized (no sign that the cancer has spread outside the breast). My breast cancer was found during a routine mammogram and was so small that the surgeon said it could have been years before any symptoms appeared.


We cannot prevent cancers from happening, but we can take positive steps towards reducing the risk of occurrence:


Stay physically active: Research consistently shows that women who are physically active have a reduced risk, about 25%, of developing breast cancer. The risk reduction is related to intensity and duration of activity. For example, participation in moderate intensity activity (ability to carry on a conversation during activity) was associated with about a 15% reduction in risk while high intensity activity (you can’t say more than a few words without having to pause) was found to have a slightly higher risk reduction (18%). Duration also factors into the reduction of risk. Participating in 2-3 hours per week of activity was associated with average risk reduction of about 9% while those women who participated in 6.5 hours per week or more showed a decreased risk of 30% (Lynch et al, 2011).


Maintain a healthy weight: Studies have shown that excess weight in post-menopausal women is linked to an increased risk, interestingly excess weight does not seem to increase breast cancer risk prior to menopause. Excess weight means more estrogen circulating in the body which can increase the risk of postmenopausal estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, increased chronic low-grade inflammation in the body which may enhance the production of free radicals leading to DNA damage, and insulin resistance leading to high levels of insulin in the body, a signal for tumor growth.


Eat fruits and vegetables: Eating more than 5.5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day can lower the risk of breast cancer by 11% (Farvid, 2018). Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and yellow and orange vegetables, have a particularly significant association with lower breast cancer risk.


Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol can increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA in cells and increasing the levels of estrogen and other hormones that are associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. In addition, alcohol is empty calories and can lead to unwanted weight gain. If you choose to partake in alcohol, your intake should not exceed the recommended limit of one alcoholic drink a day.


Early Detection for Your Protection!


References

Farvid, M. et al. (2018). Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: Repeated measures over 30 years of follow-up. International Journal of Cancer.


Lynch, B., Neilson, H. & Friedenreich, C. (2011). Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Prevention. Recent results in cancer research. Fortschritte der Krebsforschung. Progrès dans les recherches sur le cancer. 186. 13-42.


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