Few things frighten women more than the annual mammogram. The reminder
on the refrigerator strikes dread months before the appointment. The anxiety
stems from most of us knowing someone who has had breast cancer. One in
eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her
lifetime. Despite promising new research and treatments, the risk remains
with us most of our lives.
While we seemingly have no control over who and when breast cancer strikes,
we can control some of the risks.
Early detection remains key to recovery and survival. Mammograms are still
the best tool for early detection. Approximately 90 percent of all breast
cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. The following guidelines are recommended
to help women take charge of breast health:
- Be familiar with how breasts normally look and feel and immediately report
any changes to a healthcare provider;
- Start screening mammograms between ages 40 and 44;
- Continue annual mammograms from ages 45 to 54;
- At age 55, women of average risk can continue annual or switch to biennial
mammograms depending on preference;
- Screening should continue as long as a women is in good health and expects
to live another 10 years or more.
Diet may contribute to about 30 to 40 percent of all cancers. Research
indicates that a low-fat diet and one high in vegetables and fiber can
help reduce the risk or recurrence of breast cancer.
Eating well during treatment can also help rebuild muscle strength and
overcome side effects such as anemia or fatigue. Healthy choices to consider include:
- Diet low in added sugar and processed foods;
- Diet rich in unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables
and whole-grain products;
- Low-fat milk and dairy products;
- Lean meats, poultry and fish;
- Baked or broiled foods, not fried;
- Healthy snacks such as nuts, carrots, fat-free yogurt or bell pepper strips
instead of ice cream or candy;
- Limited alcohol.
Post-menopausal women should also be aware of vitamin D levels, which tend
to decrease with age. Vitamin D is beneficial in both cancer prevention
According to the National Institute of Health, regular exercise is vital
to good health. Research indicates that exercise can reduce the risk of
breast cancer recurring as much as 46 percent and lessen the risk of an
initial diagnosis. Women who exercise regularly during treatment may also
experience 40 to 50 percent less fatigue.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults
- At least 2.5 hours to 5 hours per week of moderate intensity exercise,
such as brisk walking;
- Or 75 minutes to 2.5 hours per week of vigorous exercise such as running,
biking or high-intensity cardio;
- Muscle-strengthening exercises two or more times per week; weights, yoga
and pilates can build muscles.
Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, help women to maintain
healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for breast cancer.
For more information contact Thibodaux Regional Cancer Center, 985.493.4008.