The month of October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month every year to increase awareness about the disease, and ways to prevent it through early detection. “Every individual is at some risk of getting breast cancer, and there is no assured way to prevent the disease. However, there are a lot of preventive measures which can be undertaken at an individual level for reducing the risk. While risk factors such as gender, faulty genes, family history of cancer, age, personal history of breast cancer or proliferative breast disease and ethnicity are non-modifiable and cannot be changed, the modifiable ones can definitely be prevented and controlled,” says Dr Jyoti Wadhwa, director – head, neck and thoracic oncology, Medical and Haemato Oncology, Cancer Institute, Medanta – The Medicity.
The modifiable risk factors, which include weight, diet, physical exercise, consumption of alcohol, smoking, stress and anxiety, can be controlled by adopting certain lifestyle changes. These changes will not only help in reducing the risk of breast cancer but also the chances of developing other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Follow these simple steps to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer:
1. Maintain ideal weight by adopting a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity spread over a week
2. Avoid intake of alcohol as even a small amount can be harmful
3. Avoid smoking
4. Breastfeed your newborn for a year or longer as it reduces chances of developing breast cancer
5. Avoid hormone replacement therapy and opt for of non-hormonal alternatives to manage menopausal symptoms
6. Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation
7. Be aware about your breasts, so that you can self-examine regularly for detecting visible symptoms
8. Make cancer screening a part of your life and consult your oncologist for the right kind of screening and right time to get it done
9. Stay calm, stay positive and avoid stress
If someone has a family history of breast, ovarian or other cancers, they should consult an oncologist to reduce their chances of getting the disease. Basis a detailed discussion, the following options can be explored:
1. Procedures such as genetic counselling and testing (such as BRCA 1 & 2, TP53, CHEK2, PTEN etc.) for detecting genetic mutation
2. Medications like Tamoxifen or Raloxifene to lower risk
3. Preventive (prophylactic) surgery to remove breasts and ovaries
4. Regular observation and screening (MRI, mammogram) to detect early signs of breast cancer
Thus, with simple modifications in lifestyle and by increasing awareness about this disease entity, we can achieve a lot in terms of risk reduction of breast cancer.