October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For information on what you can do to help, visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/
10 Important Facts You Should Know About Breast Cancer
Normal, healthy cells divide only when the body needs new cells. In some cases, cells in a certain part of the body will divide without control, which leads to the development of a tumor (mass of cell tissue). Sometimes, a tumor is noncancerous (benign) and the cells that are dividing out of control are normal. However, if abnormal cells divide out of control, the tumor is considered cancerous (malignant).
Breast cancer is a form of cancer in which the dividing, abnormal cells originate in the breast tissue. Breast cancer, like other forms of cancer, can spread throughout the breast tissue and to other parts of the body if left untreated. Of course, preventative medicine is ideal for reducing your risk. Early detection through regular checkups is also important in order to initiate the most effective treatment plan.
The following 10 facts provide additional information about breast cancer, which will help you to increase your awareness of this serious disease.
1. Breast self-exams are essential for early detection. Get into the habit of performing a breast self-exam at the same time every month (hormonal changes throughout the month can cause changes in how your breasts feel). By doing this once a month, you will get a better idea of how your breasts feel when they are healthy. Should any changes occur, you will be able to get a more thorough exam from your doctor.
2. Don’t panic if you feel lumps in your breast. Breast lumps (cysts) are common during the menstrual cycle. With regular self-exams, you may notice that you develop lumps in your breast that go away after a certain period of time.
3. Breast pain is usually a sign of hormonal changes, not cancer. Many women experience pain in one or both of their breasts due to hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle or menopause.
4. Outward signs of breast cancer are not usually apparent. However, a few common signs that may be detectable include a palpable lump, dimple in the breast, an area of the breast thickening, change in the shape or size of the breast, nipple scaling or discharge, increased warmth of the breast, or skin puckering on the breast.
5. Both mammograms AND clinical breast exams are important. While mammograms are important screening tools, they should not be the only screening tool that you take advantage of. An annual breast exam by a physician is imperative in order to detect forms of breast cancer that will not show up on mammograms.
6. Exercise is important for reducing the risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise helps in reducing estrogen levels, which is essential for lowering the risk of breast cancer.
7. Soy supplements increase risk of breast cancer. Soy-based foods have been touted as healthy food choices, and it’s true that soy foods such as organic edamame and organic tofu are just fine for your health. However, soy supplements contain concentrated amounts of isoflavones, which work like estrogen once ingested into your body. This can increase your risk for breast cancer.
8. Watch your weight after menopause. Maintaining your weight, no matter what age you are, is important for your overall health. However, maintaining a healthy weight becomes even more important after menopause, since studies have shown that overweight causes a dramatically increased amount of estrogen in women who are past the menopause stage, which can cause cancer growth in the breasts.
9. The risk of breast cancer increases in women with dense breasts. Breasts that are dense have cells that grow and divide at a much faster rate than less dense breasts. As a result, there’s a higher chance that cancerous cells will develop. While it’s not likely that you’ll be able to tell if you have dense breasts, your doctor will be able to perform a mammogram and clinical breast exam to determine breast density. If your doctor does find that you have dense breasts, it is important to get breast exam testing, in addition to mammograms, on an annual basis.
10. Build up your cancer-fighting arsenal with fresh produce. The antioxidants and other nutrients that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables will help you to reduce your risk of breast cancer. In particular, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are powerful veggies that will help you combat breast cancer.
In Honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, guest blogger Valerie Johnston has presented 10 facts to keep you aware. Valerie is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.