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.
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
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.
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 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.