Addressing risk factors Certain habits, such as drinking and smoking, should be limited or avoided altogether. Women also should avoid exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, known as carcinogens such as air, water and soil pollution and cigarette smoke, or those that interfere with the body’s normal functions, according to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests also should be limited, unless it is medically necessary. Additionally, women who are taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy should speak with a doctor about the associated risks. Good habits for women to adopt include breastfeeding their babies, if possible; exercising regularly; keeping a healthy weight; and getting sufficient nighttime sleep. “Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs,” the CDC states. One of the most important aspects of cancer treatment is early detection. While a mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer, this screening has benefits as well as limitations. For instance, according to the CDC, harms include false positive test results and undue radiation exposure. The CDC recommends women be familiar with how their breasts feel and look, which will help them notice “symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern.” The National Cancer Institute provides an online interactive Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to help women estimate their risk of developing invasive breast cancer. The tool is updated periodically as new research is made available. (Sources: “Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Patient Version” National Cancer Institute. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
- Focused in the chest, an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness. The feeling(s) may last several minutes and then go away, only to return.
- Pain and/or discomfort in the arms (one or both)
- Pain and/or discomfort in other areas such as the stomach, back, neck and jaw.
- Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, with or without discomfort or pain.
- Lightheadedness and nausea.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- Poor dietary choices
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol abuse or overuse
- Smoking and drug use
A risk factor is a variable associated with an increased risk of disease such as breast cancer or heart disease. Breast cancer and heart disease each have several risk factors independent of one another; however, both diseases also share many of the same risk factors in women.The following are shared risk factors in women for breast cancer and heart disease:
- Family history
- Alcohol consumption
- Physical inactivity
- Night-shift work (due to disrupting the circadian rhythm and potential suppression of melatonin, linked to tumor development)
A healthy lifestyle combining nutrition and exercise can be beneficial in reducing breast cancer risks in some women.The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC ) reported in 2009 and 2010, more than one-third of adults in the United States were obese. With a definitive relationship established between increased body weight/weight gain and breast cancer among women, the benefits of regular exercise play an important role in the fight against breast cancer.Battling weight to battle cancer Unfortunately for women, weight gain causes not only a tighter waistband but also an increase in hormone levels, particularly estrogen. A recent studied by the Institute of Cancer Research reported that among women fighting breast cancer, obese women usually have higher estrogen levels than women who are not obese. Since many breast cancers need estrogen to grow, doctors tend use hormone-blocking treatments. Treatment may include a drug such as an aromatase inhibitor, which is a hormone-suppressing drug. It is possible however; weight loss through exercise and nutrition also may be beneficial when attempting to reduce estrogen levels in breast cancer patients and those at risk for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) encourages regular, intentional physical activity or exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer and other cancers. Regular exercise also may reduce the risk of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. The ACS guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (two and one-half hours) of moderately intense exercise/activity per week, 75 minutes (one hour and fifteen minutes) of vigorously intense exercise/activity per week or a combination of both moderate and vigorous exercise spread throughout a seven-day period. Types of exercise Women’s health and wellness routines must include some levels of exercise to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, especially when fighting breast cancer. Incorporating moderate and even intense exercise into a daily routine doesn’t have to be costly or stressful. Moderate exercise should raise your heart rate, cause you to sweat yet you should still be able to hold a conversation without gasping for breath. Inexpensive ways to exercise moderately include taking a brisk/fast walk through your neighborhood or local park, pushing a lawn mower or riding a bicycle. Vigorous exercise makes you breathe harder and it may be difficult to hold a conversation while exercising. Examples include jogging, playing a game of basketball, soccer or tennis and swimming laps (not leisurely swimming, concentrated strokes to raise the heart rate.) Gardening, playing with your kids and household chores such as vacuuming and mopping are other ways simply to get moving. Every time you get up and do something active, you are helping your overall health. Reducing sedimentary habits can help fight weight gain as well. In addition, it’s important to remember to eat nutritionally balanced meals that do not exceed recommended daily caloric intake. If you’re not sure what your caloric intake should be, talk to your doctor. Before beginning any exercise routine it is important to talk first to your doctor to determine what is best for your health.