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October 25, 2021

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a yearly campaign that supports and raises awareness about the early diagnosis and the treatment of the disease. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, since 2008, worldwide breast cancer cases have increased by more than 20 percent while breast cancer mortality also increased by 14 percent. 

About 1 in 20 women develop breast cancer in their lifetime, the most common type of cancer in women worldwide. However, since breast cancer is curable if detected in its early stages, women should always on the lookout for early signs of breast cancer. Women must have their breasts examined by their healthcare practitioner on a regular basis and perform breast self-exam every month. 


Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

  • Age. Studies found that approximately 80 percent of breast cancer cases usually occur in women who are over 50 years of age. By age 70, women have an 8 percent chance of having breast cancer. 
  • Personal History. If you have a personal history of benign breast disease and cancer in one breast. 
  • Nulliparity. Not becoming pregnant or nulliparity increases the risk of breast cancer. It has been associated with higher risks of reproductive malignancies which include ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and breast cancer. 
  • Family History. You have a higher risk of having breast cancer if you have close relatives who have been diagnosed with it. 
  • Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry. Research shows that women having Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a slightly higher risk than other women because of the high frequency of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) gene mutations. By age 70, women who have BRCA1 gene mutations have a 55 to 65 percent chance, while BRCA2 gene mutations have a 45 percent chance of developing breast cancer.


Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

  • Lump in the breast or armpit
  • Dark discharge or bleeding from the nipple
  • Retraction of the nipple
  • Creased, dimpled skin over the lump
  • Abnormal change in the size and shape of the breast

Consult your healthcare practitioner immediately if you notice any of the symptoms. Breast cancer is curable if detected early. 


Diagnosis of Breast Cancer 

Here are some of the tests and procedures that can be done to diagnose if you are prone to developing breast cancer:

  • Mammogram. This test is commonly used to screen for early signs of breast cancer. During this test, low-energy X-rays are used to examine the breasts and are compressed between two firm surfaces in order to spread out the breast tissue. This test would allow doctors to see any changes or lumps in your breasts. 
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI is a tube-shaped machine that creates a strong magnetic field around the patient, this test captures multiple images of your breast using computers. This test is effective in detecting small breast lesions that sometimes missed by mammography. 
  • Breast Biopsy. A specialized needle is used to get some cells from the suspicious area in your breast, the biopsy sample is then examined under a microscope to determine whether there are breast cancer cells.
  • Breast Ultrasound. An imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves in order to produce images of the breast and to screen for tumors and abnormalities. 
  • Breast Exam/ Breast Self-Exam. You can visit your healthcare practitioner for a breast exam where the doctor will check your breasts for any lumps and other abnormalities. It is also significant to examine your own breasts every month for any changes.


How to do a Breast Self-Exam (BSE):

Breast self-examination is significant. It should be done once a month, preferably 2 to 3 days after your period when your breasts are least tender. 

  1. Look for breast changes in front of the mirror. Raise both arms above the head and examine breasts from different angles, use your fingerpads with massage oil or shower gel to detect for lumps. Check for changes such as skin color, texture, and skin dimpling. Put the arms down and also check from side to side.
  2. Feel for breast changes while also lying down. Your breast tissue spreads out when you lie down, making your breasts thinner and easier to feel. Examine all the breast area in a vertical strip pattern. Feel for any lumps or thickening using circles of light and firm pressure for each spot.
  3. Using your hands, apply firm pressure on the breast to see if there's an unusual discharge or bleeding from the nipple and also deformation.


Reducing your Risk of Breast Cancer

Some of the risk factors like family history of the disease can’t be changed, however, there are still things you can do to prevent and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer prevention starts with having a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the significant things you can do to help reduce your risk of breast cancer even if you have a high risk of developing the disease:

  1. Get Physically Active. Being physically active will help you maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that being overweight or obese especially after menopause can increase your risk of breast cancer. Women who stay physically active for at least 30 minutes every day can effectively lower their risk.
  2. Limit your alcohol and don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of having deadly diseases such as stroke, heart disease and cancers including breast cancer. You should also limit your alcohol intake because the more alcohol you drink, the greater the chances of developing the disease.
  3. Eat Healthy Foods. As much as possible eat healthy organic foods, a healthy diet can lower your risk of breast cancer. You should add foods high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in your daily diet. These kinds of foods include broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, lemons, apples, sardines, salmon, walnuts, chia and flax seeds.
  4. Breast-feeding. If possible, you can breastfeed to reduce your risk of breast cancer. The longer time you breastfeed, the stronger protective effect it can do for you. In addition, it also provides great health benefits for the baby.
  5. Limit your dose of hormone therapy. If you are taking hormone therapy, it should be for the shortest time possible. Research shows that hormone therapy for more than 3 to 5 years increases your risk of breast cancer. You should talk to your doctor to monitor the length of time you’re taking hormones.

Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends consulting your healthcare professional for any questions concerning your health. 


World Cancer Research Fund International
National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.
Canadian Cancer Society
Siteman Cancer Center
Breast Cancer Now
Susan G Komen
Mayo Clinic

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