When it comes to breast cancer, doctors say it's the small, everyday things one can do to reduce the risks of getting the disease. Jill Urban filed the following report.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, an annual campaign to help increase education and support for breast cancer. But it is a time to remind all women of the ways to make prevention a part of everyday life.
"The nice thing about October is there is a lot of discussion about breast cancer. But this discussion should go on all year long. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent breast cancer but we can do certain things to decrease of risk of breast cancer," says Dr. Susan Boolbol, Chief of Breast Surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Dr. Boolbol says the number one thing woman can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer is to maintain an ideal body weight, especially after menopause.
The thing to remember is prior to going through menopause, estrogen, is produced in our ovaries mainly. After menopause, it’s produced in fat cells. The heavier we are, the more fat cells we have, the more estrogen is produced and therefore, increases our risk of developing breast cancer," says Dr. Boolbol.
So with that in mind, Dr. Boolbol says it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and to find the time to exercise. Diet and exercise are the best ways to keep our weight down and ultimately reduce the risk. She says the key is to set realistic goals.
"If you need to lose 20 pounds you can't say, 'I am going to lose 20 pounds in a month.' That’s not reality based, same with exercise. You can't start off by saying, 'I am exercising four times a week.' Start with once a week and gradually move up," recommends Dr. Boolbol.
Another risk factor we can control is alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol increases the risk for breast cancer. So if you do drink, make sure it’s in moderation.
And of course, don’t forget to go for those screenings. A woman with an average risk should have a mammogram every year after 40. And all women should know how to perform a breast exam at home.
While screenings can’t prevent breast cancer they can lead to early detection, and early detection saves lives.
For more on breast cancer awareness and prevention, visit nbcam.org.