For women everywhere, maintaining overall wellness means keeping a close eye on breast health. Understanding your breasts and what is normal is the first step. Regular self-breast exams, often overlooked, are the single best tool you can use. In addition to monthly self-breast exams, women can also help reduce their risks of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
While it’s not fully understood why there is a connection between weight and breast cancer, we do know that women who are obese are more likely to develop breast cancer. It is believed that the production of estrogen after menopause is the primary issue. In addition, women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are more likely to have an advanced stage at the time of diagnosis.
Women who are obese are more likely to develop breast cancer.
According to research, women who are physically active are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer. Regular exercise boosts immune function, lowers levels of estrogen and insulin, and helps fight obesity. “Exercise is a powerful tool in the fight against breast cancer,” says Dr. Charity Dugan, breast surgeon and head of the UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Breast Health team. “In addition to lowering your risk for cancer, it can help if you are diagnosed, as well, because regular exercise boosts bone density, which is something that may be depleted during treatment.”
Regular exercise boosts bone density, which is something that may be depleted during treatment.
LIMIT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Women should limit their alcohol consumption to just one drink per day, according to research. Even a modest increase to two drinks per day adds risk. The type of alcohol is not important. Rather, it is the quantity of alcoholic drinks that contributes to the elevated risk of breast cancer. A serving of an alcoholic drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor.
Smoking is linked to an increased risk of a number of diseases, including breast cancer in premenopausal women. Smoking can also increase complications after surgery for breast cancer. Therefore it’s important that you not smoke. If you currently smoke, it is important that you quit. Both the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society have smoking cessation programs that may help you quit if you currently smoke.
BEAT BREAST CANCER
Even if you follow all of the tips above, there is still a chance that you could receive a breast cancer diagnosis. In fact, 1 in 8 women (13%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. When women receive a breast cancer diagnosis, it can be overwhelming at first. The potential treatments, procedures, recovery, and more can all be intimidating. It’s likely they won’t even know where to start.
We want to make it comfortable and convenient for the women in our community.
Dr. Charity Dugan recommends that you look for resources close to home, if possible. “From your breast surgeon to rehabilitation and support groups, you will be spending a lot of time on this journey. Not having to spend hours in the car to go to appointments is not only a time saver but can help your mental health as well.”
In Southern Maryland, we are fortunate to have all of those resources together. “We want to make it comfortable and convenient for the women in our community affected by breast cancer,” emphasizes Dr. Joseph Moser, Chief Medical Officer at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center.
To learn more about available Breast Health services, visit UMCharlesRegional.org/BreastHealth.