It is pretty hard to miss that October is "Breast Cancer Awareness Month". Just about every store I walk into has a multitude of pink-colored items and special pink packaging with the awareness ribbon stamped on the front . On the television there are commercials to remind us of "pink October", sports teams wearing pink, and news stories reminding us to have our mammograms done. The sobering statistics are that about 1 in 8 of us will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. That means that we all have somebody in our life who has been affected (or will be affected) by this disease.
My job as a physician is to educate you (my patients and friends) about the best ways to prevent disease, and to try and catch disease early so that you will have a long, healthy life. There ARE some things that you can do to try to decrease your risk for breast cancer:
Don't smoke! There is not much more to say about this except that it is terrible for your health in every way.
Limit alcohol The more you drink, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Limit to one drink a day or less.
Control your weight Obesity, especially after menopause increases your risk for breast cancer
Breast-feed There is a protective effect- the longer, the better
Exercise You need 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity -plus strength training twice a week
Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy Talk with your doctor about choosing the lowest dose for the shortest number of years
Do your breast self-exams monthly How else will you know if there is a new lump?
In order to detect breast cancer early, mammograms still remain the best test that we have. There has been a lot of confusion in the media lately about what age to start mammograms, and how often to have them done. In looking at all of these studies, we still recommend to start yearly mammograms at age 40 and continue them for your whole life. There may be some of you that need to start testing earlier, but that will depend on medical and family history. Read More »