BENGALURU: Breast cancer has become a major health concern today with many people suffering from this condition across the globe. According to WHO, in 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 6,85,000 deaths globally making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.
Breast cancer is not a transmissible or infectious disease. Around 10 per cent of people develop this type of cancer due to hereditary and over 90 per cent due to lifestyle factors. Lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, increased consumption of alcohol, smoking can increase the chances of breast cancer. Thus it is vital to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
What can one do to reduce the risk of breast cancer?
Multiple risk factors influence the development of breast cancer. Therefore, knowing the risk factors and taking necessary measures is crucial. Regular tests, early diagnosis can help in prevention as well as timely treatment.
While you cannot change the risk factors like genetics, ageing and family history, by following a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent the cancer..
Here are a simple measures you can follow to avoid breast cancer:
- Be psychically active: By staying active, you will be able to maintain a healthy weight. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day significantly reduces the susceptibility of breast cancer.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol: Research has shown that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. It is best to quit drinking.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Even though this treatment is found to be effective in relieving symptoms of menopause, combined HRT of estrogen and progestin can be associated with a small increase in the risk of breast cancer. Identifying the symptoms Some warning signs to look out for are lumps in the breast or underarm (armpit), thickening or swelling of part of the breast, irritation, redness in the nipple, pain, discharge of fluid coming out of one or both nipples, change in the size of the breast. These symptoms can be identified by self-examination. One should also go for other screening methods regularly.
Ways to self-examine
- Stand in front of the mirror and look out for size, shape, colour, and swelling or any signs of fluid discharge from one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
- Use your fingers and examine your breast carefully for any lumps or thickened areas by going in circular patterns in all the areas. The best way to do this is by lying on the bed and examining each breast.
Importance of diet
A healthy diet promotes healthy living which can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. It also helps in maintaining a healthy weight, a key factor in preventing breast cancer. Including vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts in your regular diet help you to avoid many health conditions. For those who have breast cancer, make sure your body gets the proper nutrition. This may help the body heal from cancer treatment, lessen cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment and make your immune system strong.
Who are at risk?
Men are also susceptible to breast cancer. However, it is rare among them. Breast cancer cases are more among women. According to studies, one in eight women develop breast cancer. Some of the known risk factors are
1. Women above 50 years old or older are more prone to develop breast cancer
2. Family history of breast cancer
3. People who have undergone radiation therapy
4. Genetic mutations - Those who have inherited genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are at higher risk of breast cancer
5. Early menstruation and late menopause
6. Having the first child at an older age
7. Postmenopausal hormone therapy
Research suggests that birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs), that release hormones, increase the risk of breast cancer. The study found that the risk was greatest among women aged 45 and above who still use the pill and the risk increase by 50% when compared to women who had never used it.
(The writer is a lead and senior consultant - Medical Oncology & Haematology at Aster CMI Hospital)