8 Ways To Detect And Prevent Breast Cancer At An Early Stage

Pink ribbon: The symbol to prevent breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in Indian women. The incidence of breast cancer has increased exponentially over the past decade. Earlier, the incidence was higher in developed countries but now, the numbers are increasing in India as well. According to a study published in the International Journal of Innovative Research in Computer and Communication Engineering[1], it is estimated that 1 in 28 Indian women is likely to develop breast cancer and the numbers might double by 2030. This alarming increase might be attributed partially to our unhealthy lifestyle and increased exposure to stress. Although a healthy lifestyle can help in reducing the risk of getting breast cancer, the silver lining is that if detected early, breast cancer can be treated effectively.

Ways To Detect And Prevent Breast Cancer

Most people believe that genes play a key role in putting a woman at risk of breast cancer and hence, it cannot be prevented. But in reality, in only 5-10% of the cases of breast cancer the main risk factor is genetic predisposition. In the remaining 90% of the cases, which are known to be sporadic breast cancers, the identified risk factors can be managed[2]. These include lifestyle factors, environmental factors or reproductive factors, which would primarily be due to hormonal problems. 

Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips that you should follow to reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as for early detection of cancer.

1. Go For Regular Physical Activity

Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity increase the risk of breast cancer. It is revealed that women who get regular physical activity have a 10%-20% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive[3]. This could be attributed to the effect of exercise on systemic inflammation, hormones, and energy balance. Even walking seems to exert beneficial effects. So make sure you go for moderate intensity exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 4 days a week.

2. Quit Smoking

For a long time, studies showed no link between smoking and breast cancer. But in recent years, more studies have shown that heavy smoking over a long-time is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. According to a review by American Cancer Society researchers[3] women who started smoking before the birth of their first child had a 21% higher risk of breast cancer as compared to those who never smoked. Moreover, it is also reported that exposure to secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer, particularly for premenopausal women.

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3. Restrict Alcohol Intake

Cut down on your alcohol intake as excess intake can lead to health problems. If you have to, then restrict it to social gatherings. Studies[3] show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

4. Get Rid Of Excess Body Weight

Obesity is an important risk factor for breast cancer. Studies revealed that postmenopausal breast cancer risk is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women and about 2 times higher in obese women than in lean women. This might be due to higher estrogen levels because fat tissue is the largest source of estrogen in postmenopausal women. Therefore, it is important to maintain your weight within the normal range.

Opt for a regular fitness program and try and stay active throughout the day. Make healthy dietary choices and cut down on refined, processed and oily foods.

5. Do Breast Self Examination Once A Month

It is important to do regular self examination of the breasts since they might help in early detection. First of all, look at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and arms on your hips. Look for any dimpling, bulging of skin, or inverted nipple. Now, feel your breasts using the first few finger pads of your hand moving in a circular motion. The easiest way to feel breasts is when the skin is wet and slippery as while taking a shower.

6. Get Clinical Examination Done Yearly

After the age of 35, it is recommended to get a clinical examination done by an experienced breast surgeon every year. In women with a family history of breast cancer, it is recommended to get annual clinical examination done after the age of 25.

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7. Get Mammography Done

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. It can be used for screening purposes when you have no symptoms of cancer. It can also be used if you have a lump or other sign of breast cancer. It is recommended to get regular mammograms done yearly  after the age of 40 years. The simplest way to remember this is to ‘gift yourself a mammogram’ on your birthday!

8. Take Special Care In Case Of Family History

If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, do consult your oncologist to discuss your risk of breast cancer. If you or any female in your family is above 40 years of age, you can get a mammography done at affordable prices. Remember, early detection of breast cancer helps in complete cure and recovery from breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. So share this article with every woman you know.

Recommended Reads:

Breast Cancer Screening Tests: What Every Woman Should Know

7 Common Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

References:

1. Chaurasia V, Pal S. A Novel Approach for Breast Cancer Detection using Data Mining Techniques.; 2014 International Journal of Innovative Research in Computer and Communication Engineering.; 2(1); 2456-65. 

2. Consensus Document For the Management Of Breast Cancer. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).2016. 

3. Breast Cancer. Facts & Figures 2017-2018. The American Cancer Society. 

4. Agarwal G, Ramakant P. Breast Cancer Care in India: The Current Scenario and the Challenges for the Future. Breast Care (Basel). 2008;3(1):21-27. 

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