Tips to Prevent, Detect & Understand Breast Cancer

Chances are you may have already been impacted by breast cancer in some form. Breast cancer touches the lives of countless women, men, and families in the United States. Through early detection and diagnosis, understanding our risk factors, and by taking preventative measures we can reduce the impact breast cancer has in our community.

  1. What is breast cancer?

The Breast Cancer Foundation, INC describes breast cancer as a disease where malignant cancer cells develop in the breast tissue of the body. If the malignant cells in the breast tissue cause damage to the body’s DNA then breast cancer has successfully developed. These malignant cancer cells can multiply at an extremely fast rate, that’s why early detection is key in the treatment process. Breast cancer can develop in both males and females, however the World Health Organization cites breast cancer as the most common form of cancer affecting women.

  1. Risk factors

One of the largest factors determining your chances of developing breast cancer are your genetics. If breast cancer runs in your family then your likelihood of also developing the disease is increased by two or three, according to the World Health Organization. Prolonged exposure to estrogen, such as use of oral contraceptives or early menarche or late menopause can increase your chances of developing the disease. The WHO also contributes 21% of breast cancer deaths due to physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, and alcohol use.

  1. Early detection and diagnosis

The earliest form of detection occurs in self-examinations. The National Breast Cancer Foundation encourages women to perform self-examinations at least once a month because nearly 40% of women who are diagnosed with the cancer had first performed a breast exam and found a lump. To properly perform a breast exam use the pads of your fingers and gently move around your breast in a circular motion until you reach the center. You should be feeling for any lumps, knots, or thickening. Also be sure to examine the appearance of your breasts in the mirror. Changes in shape such as dimpling, swelling, and/or puckering might be an indication of breast cancer. Mammograms are an excellent screening tool as well, especially since mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt. Search a health center near you to schedule your next mammogram!

If you find a lump, DON’T PANIC! The National Breast Cancer Foundation finds that 8 out of 10 lumps are non-cancerous. But be sure to contact your health care provider.

  1. Prevention

So now we know that genetics, prolonged estrogen exposure, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, and alcohol consumption can all pose a risk to our chances of developing breast cancer. Clearly we can’t change our genetics, you just have to be aware of breast cancer in your family and take the proper measures for early detection!

But we CAN change our lifestyle habits. By participating in regular physical activity we can build healthy bodies to fight breast cancer. Monitoring things such as our weight and alcohol consumption is also key in the prevention process. You can continue to prevent breast cancer by weighing yourself on a regular basis, set weight loss goals for yourself, consume a nutrient rich diet, and cut back on any alcohol consumption. Your local YMCA is a great resource for getting fit and staying fit! Together we can build healthy habits that fit your lifestyle!

By Raven Elias, Peoria YMCA Wellness Coach and Community Wellness Major at Bradley University

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