Breast health. The subject matter is a bit taboo. Nonetheless, I feel that it is important to address. For most of my life, I just considered my breasts to be a part of my body, giving no special thought to improving their health by making specific choices. But as I have gotten older, I have taken more control of my healthcare overall and am taking steps to improve my breast health, while at the same time lessening my chances of getting breast cancer.
Can You Prevent Breast Cancer?
We all know someone who is fighting breast cancer right now. In fact, 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer throughout the course of her life. And while breast cancer in men is 100 times less likely than in women, it does happen—over 2,000 cases of male breast cancer are reported every year.
Doctors recommend getting mammograms for early detection, but many people are not always informed of what actions they can take to help prevent breast cancer. There are widely known recommendations such as regular exercise, avoiding stress and even eating broccoli. But what if you could do more to lower your chances of getting breast cancer?
A new year is a time to start fresh, to look at all the ways we can improve in all areas of our lives in the coming year. As we head into 2018, let’s explore some of the ways you can take control of your breast health once and for all.
Mammograms: To Get or Not to Get?
The one early detection tool we are all aware of is a mammogram. But can it be considered a true preventative measure against breast cancer? The ideas surrounding mammograms can leave anyone a little confused. Even experts seem divided on when you should start getting a mammogram (much less how often you should get them) as well as what the best breast cancer screening option is at all.
Here are some of the varying controversies surrounding mammograms you may have heard:
- That women should start getting them as early as their 20’s
- That the breast compression of the mammogram spreads cancer
- That the exposure to the radiation of the scan can cause cancer
Are any of these true? And are mammograms really worth the trouble? Well, it all depends.
Mammograms are considered the gold star of breast cancer detection, especially if you are considered at high risk for it. What’s more, getting a mammogram as young as possible has become a popular call to arms for many women in recent years. It’s important to understand that while mammograms can be helpful in detecting breast cancer, the technology does come with inherent risks. For example, most medical professionals don’t recommend getting yearly mammograms until you are at least in your 40’s, with more and more recommending that you wait until age 50.
In regards to mammograms, taking control of your breast health seems to be a balancing act of early detection while keeping your mammogram exposure as low as possible. Your doctor will make a recommendation based on your family history and other risk factors, but take time to not only educate yourself on the reasons behind those recommendations but to also research the risks you might encounter should you choose to get a mammogram.
The bottom line with mammograms is this: they do not prevent breast cancer, nor do they treat it. While they can detect cancerous cells as well as confirm a diagnosis from another test, their usefulness in preventing cancer ends there.
Thermography: Making Preventative Lifestyle Changes
Another diagnostic test for breast health is thermography, or Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging. This non-invasive test can show physiologic changes, such as inflammation, that can be addressed with lifestyle changes before they become a problem. Thermography is different than a mammogram and therefore not a replacement. The main advantage of this technology, however, is that the entire body can be scanned. That way, you can have a look into the health of your body as a whole. I have added this test into my annual wellness plan, and it has given me a sense of power over my health that I did not have before. Be aware that insurance does not usually cover the cost, so you will probably have to pay out of pocket.
Easy Ways to Improve Your Breast Health Every Day
- Avoid deodorants with aluminum and parabens. Try natural ones instead.
- Improve lymph flow with dry brushing and exercise
- Massage your own breasts and the areas around them daily
- Lose weight. Women who are overweight (particularly after menopause) have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Eat more anti-angiogenic foods. Inflammation and cancer go hand in hand. By switching to an anti- inflammatory (anti-angiogenic) diet, you can significantly decrease your risk for breast cancer (and any cancer, for that matter!). Read more about this phenomenon in my article, Can We Eat to Fight Cancer?
Now is the Time to Take Control of Your Breast Health
As the old saying goes, your health is your wealth…and that applies to the health of your breasts, too! There’s no better time than a brand new year to take action in the name of better health.
Wishing you all well in 2018!