This time of year, this month, more than any other time of the year, women (and men) are admonished and reminded to do regular checks and to undertake other preventative measures.
It is October and it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Consequently, a spotlight is on breast cancer, this decreasingly major killer, on the strides that have been made in eradicating it. A time of year when survivors celebrate, when fundraising and information initiatives are in overdrive.
Contributing to the general awareness are two of the country's top cancer-fighting institutions – the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. They suggest eight ways to significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting breast cancer.
These are common-sense approaches, some or all, of which many have likely been encouraged to undertake at one time or another, including the individuals quoted throughout:
1. Keep weight in check
It’s easy to tune out because it is said so often, but maintaining a healthy weight should be an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Post-menoopausal hormones have adverse effects if taken for long periods of time.
Exercise is as close to a silver bullet for good health as there is. Women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to help keep weight in check.
It drove home, personally, the value of early detection and education and intervention. – Janet Napolitano
3. Drink (alcohol) in moderation
Alcohol can be good for the heart, but when it comes to cancer, there’s really nothing good about it. Even moderate amounts increase the risk of breast cancer. In general, if you drink moderately (no more than one drink a day for women), the overall health benefits of drinking outweigh the risks. But if you don’t drink, don’t feel that you need to start.
Having cancer does make you try to be better at everything you do and enjoy every moment. It changes you forever. But it can be a positive change. Jaclyn Smith
4. Breastfeed, if possible
Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child.
My first thought was, 'Really? Me, breast cancer?' I just couldn't believe it. – Wanda Sykes
5. Avoid birth control pills (particularly after age 35 or if you smoke)
Birth control pills have both risks and benefits. The younger a woman is, the lower the risks. While women are taking birth control pills, they have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk goes away quickly, though, after stopping the pill.
Avoiding excessive alcohol can prevent a multitude of ill, including breast cancer.
The risk of stroke and heart attack also is increased while on the pill – particularly if a woman smokes. However, long-term use also can have important benefits, like lowering the risk of ovarian cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer – not to mention unwanted pregnancy – so there’s also a lot in its favor. If you’re very concerned about breast cancer, avoiding birth control pills is one option to lower risk.
6. Don't take post-menopausal hormones
Postmenopausal hormones shouldn’t be taken long term to prevent chronic diseases, like osteoporosis and heart disease. Studies show they have a mixed effect on health, increasing the risk of some diseases and lowering the risk of others, and both estrogen-only hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones increase the risk of breast cancer.
If women do take post-menopausal hormones, it should be for the shortest time possible. The best person to talk to about the risks and benefits of post-menopausal hormones is a personal physcian.
Men get it . I think us men need you women to help us survive. – Peter Criss
7. Learn your family history
Women with a strong family history of cancer can take special steps to protect themselves, so it’s important for women to know their family history.
You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age) or if you have multiple family members (including males) who developed breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.A doctor or genetic counselor can help you understand your family history of the disease.
Cancer is really heard to go through and it's really hard to watch someone you love go through, and I know because I have been on both sides of the equation. – Cynthia Nixon
Tamoxifen has been found to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in those at high risk for contracting it.
8. Take Tamoxifen and raloxifene (for women at high risk)
Although not commonly thought of as a “healthy behavior,” taking the prescription drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene can significantly lower the risk of breast cancer in woman at high risk of the disease.
Approved by the FDA for breast cancer prevention, these powerful drugs can have side effects, so they aren’t right for everyone. If you think you’re at high risk, talk to your doctor to see if tamoxifen or raloxifene may be right for you.
Fight each round take it on the chin. And never, never, never ever give in. – Olivia Newton-John
Visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month to learn more about breast cancer prevention, treatment and other aspects of the disease.