Breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately 194,000 people in the United States in a year while India witnesses a rapid increase in the breast cancer patients with cervical cancer as the second.

Cancer detected in an early stage is highly treatable and curable. I have personally visited the Oncology department and the Radiology department meeting hundreds of people from all age groups with various types of cancer. Out of these, I have talked to women with cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Though majority of them are from a poor background and perhaps with no awareness, I found a strong self confidence and a positive outlook in them. It amused me the way some others touched the Varian Linear Accelerator with prayers as if it were their Savior.

Women above 40 years of age are advised to take regular breast examinations for early detection and improved survival rate. Here’s how to perform a self-examination at home:

  • Lie down with a pillow under your left shoulder and keep your left arm folded under your head. Use the finger pads of the other hand to feel lumps or any other changes in the left breast. Use some pressure. Repeat the same for the other breast.
  • Most often breast cancers occur in the upper, outer region of the breast toward the armpit.
  • Do this self-exam every month and inform your doctor if any abnormality is found.

There is no prevention to cancer. But definitely by leading a healthy and careful life you can lower the risks. Knowing the risk factors can certainly help you to prevent it.

  • Gender and Genes: Being a woman makes your life risky! Man are 100 times less prone to breast cancer than women. A good 10% of cancer can be genetic.
  • Age: Breast cancer is widely seen in older women, i.e, women above 50 years of age.
  • Race: Breast cancer is seen more in white women than others. But African-American women may have more aggressive tumors and have a higher mortality rate.
  • Early menstruation or late menopause: Early menstruation means more cycles and late menopause also means the same. It is so due to the fact that a higher lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone is the cause of cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption gives you a 20% higher risk of developing cancer.
  • Obesity with lack of regular physical activity- A BMI of less than 25 is found to reduce the chances of breast cancer. At least 30 minutes of exercise is vital in preventing cancer and any other lifestyle diseases.
  • High fat diets: A diet with decreased amounts of Omega-6 and increased amounts of Omega-3s is advisable. You can get your fats from monounsaturated oils as they are anticancerous. Lower your consumption of carbs as some carbs can trigger hormonal changes  and promote cellular growth in breast tissue. Eat a lot of organic soy, roasted soy nuts and miso. Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables upto 7 servings a day.
  • Having no children, late pregnancies, use of oral contraceptives, no breast feeding and more are traced as other causes.
  • Ask your doctor about multivitamin supplements.

-Aparna K V

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