High Risk Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle Modifications for High Risk Women

Being at high risk for breast cancer is not an absolute diagnosis but a caution light to carefully monitor your health. Women who monitor their lifestyles and comply with recommended screening guidelines will be using the most effective tools known in the battle against breast cancer. Early detection provides a woman her best chance against breast cancer.

Your doctor will recommend a screening program consisting of monthly breast self-exam, clinical exams by a healthcare professional and mammography. These three screening methods are very effective for early detection.

Lifestyle changes that could reduce the risk for cancer should also be a part of your program. Current research has identified areas in which certain health choices could significantly reduce the risk for many cancers. Areas that may affect breast cancer are:

Age of first pregnancy

Data shows that women who deliver their first full-term baby before age 30 are less likely to develop breast cancer and women who give birth are less likely to develop ovarian cancer. If you are young and can alter these factors, you may wish to consider these risks as you plan your future.

Body weight

Obesity has been shown to increase the risk for post-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer. Individuals who are 40% or more above normal weight should consider the implications of their weight on their risk status. A diet that is low-fat, high-fiber and calorie-restricted for gradual weight loss should be started. Do not attempt A crash @ or fad diets that cause you to lose weight quickly; these can be unhealthy. The diet that reduces cancer risks is rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and is low in meats, sugars and processed foods. Soy products have also been shown to be beneficial. Some physicians suggest adding dietary supplements to your diet routine. Ask your doctor which dietary supplements are recommended.

Exercise

Physical activity during a woman's reproductive years may provide a protective effect against breast cancer risks studies show. Moderate exercise increases the immune system's ability to protect the body against unhealthy cellular activity. However, strenuous activity may not be helpful because of the stress it places on the body. A good walking program is adequate to provide the protective affect.

Alcohol

Some studies suggest that there is a link between alcohol consumption and the development of breast cancer. Regular use at a younger age carries the highest defined risk. Occasional, moderate use has not been shown to have a great impact. High risk women should carefully evaluate alcohol usage and either keep consumption to an occasional drink or abstain.

Smoking

Smoking has proven to decrease the body's natural immune surveillance increasing the risk for many types of cancers. The relationship between smoking and breast cancer is not clearly defined as a direct cause, but there is proof that smoking increases a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer by 25%. High risk women are advised to stop or severely limit tobacco use to protect their general health.

There are some things women can't change about their future health--genetic makeup and past medical history. However, there are areas that can be changed, that can impact general and breast health. Consider the above changes and decide which you can make to protect your future.

For more information, please call The Connie Dwyer Breast Center at (973) 877-5189.