October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This means thirty-one days of educating the public on the early detection of breast cancer and supporting those who have been affected by the disease. As a teen, I watched my mom suffer as she fought breast cancer until her last breath, and it’s something that I don’t ever want to go through, or anyone else either—this is why I’m doing my part to spread awareness this month. Though breast cancer can be genetic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get it, it just puts you at a higher risk. There isn’t a sure way to prevent the disease from developing, but there are ways to lower the risk: Eat healthy to avoid becoming overweight
Studies show that women who are overweight and obese after menopause have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, so it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid eating a lot of processed foods in order to maintain a healthy weight. Even if you aren’t in menopause, it’s still good to keep your weight down because your pre-menopausal weight can carry over into menopause, causing the risk of breast cancer to increase. Exercise regularly Staying active can reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, and at least 75 minutes of intense activity each week. Moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walking, swimming, and jogging. Examples of vigorous-intensity exercises are running, cycling, and jump roping. Eliminate stress I know that it’s not easy getting rid of every single stressful thing in your life, but you can prevent it from being overwhelming. When your body is overloaded with stress, it affects your overall health, causing negative consequences. Research shows mixed results when it comes to the role that stress plays in breast cancer. Some studies suggest that stress contributes to the development of the disease, while others show that there isn’t a link between stress and breast cancer. Either way, you can’t go wrong with keeping the stress down in your life. Limit or avoid alcohol There is a link between alcohol consumption and the increased risk of breast cancer. It’s suspected that alcohol raises estrogen levels, which can then lead to cancer. It’s recommended that women avoid alcohol, but if drinking is your thing, you should try to have one alcoholic beverage a day. Stay consistent with breast self-check exams Always, always, do a breast self-check exam and do them regularly. This will help you detect any unusual lumps or skin changes in your breasts. If something feels odd, contact your gynecologist immediately, even if you don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s always better safe than sorry. Get the genetic test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene If you know that breast cancer runs in your family, consider getting tested for the gene mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2. If you have one of these genes, you can explore the different options to help prevent breast cancer such as surgery to remove your breasts. Talk to your doctor about the other options available to reduce your risk. Conclusion: In October we wear pink. We wear it to support those who are fighting breast cancer and to honor those who have lost the fight with the disease. In doing that, it’s the perfect time to spread awareness so that we can help as many women (and men) as possible understand the importance of prevention and early detection. If you want to help get the message out, share this blog post with your friends, family members, and colleagues. You can find more information and resources at Breast Cancer Now or Susan G. Komen.