October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while this month is a great opportunity to spread information about this far-too-common disease, the truth is we need to keep having the conversation, especially about the value of early detection.
Breast cancer strikes an estimated one in eight women, and the other seven likely know someone who is a cancer survivor, is currently battling the disease or has lost that battle.
Though a breast cancer diagnosis is life changing, when detected early it is among the most treatable – and curable – of cancers. And research is showing more evidence that lifestyle behaviors, such as exercise and nutrition can be key in preventing cancer in the first place.
So what is it that women should be doing to reduce their risk? For starters, a diet rich in fruit and green, leafy vegetables, which contain many cancer-fighting compounds, is excellent preventive medicine.
For example, eating more grains helps foods pass through the body more quickly, helping to flush out harmful substances. Next, “think red” as red foods, such as tomatoes and watermelon, contain antioxidants that can help prevent the recurrence of tumors in previously diagnosed patients.
Healthy eating and regular exercise habits are beneficial in cancer prevention, but a regular self-examination and annual mammograms are still the best ways to detect cancer early. This year, make it a priority to include a mammogram in your self-care. Given the effectiveness of treating breast cancer in its early stages, it’s critical that women carve out a little time to put themselves first.
One common misconception that women don’t schedule a mammogram is that radiation associated with diagnostic imaging is potentially harmful and could, itself, cause cancer. However, technological advances, including state-of-the-art digital mammography, which is available at Mercy Outpatient Imaging, have reduced the amount of radiation absorbed during the process to a minimum and a small fraction of what it was two decades ago.
It’s important for all women to have a discussion with their doctor or healthcare provider about when they should get their first mammogram and the frequency of regular screenings.
Breast self-examinations are recommended monthly, following the menstrual period or on the same date each month. Don’t forget a check in with your primary care provider too as an annual breast exam conducted by a trained healthcare professional is recommended for women 40 and older and during routine check-ups for younger women.
We know there is no guarantee that breast cancer won’t occur, but
following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and prioritizing your own
health by talking with health care provider about when to schedule your first, or next mammogram is step we can all take.