The five year survival rate of breast cancer is over 90% when caught. Get early detailed information here before it’s too late.
Breast cancer is the most common invasive malignancy in women and a leading cause of death in women second only to lung cancer. The global economic cost of premature death and disability from breast cancer is around 88 billion dollars.
It is more common in developed countries. The treatment is difficult, debilitating and expensive and the psychological trauma to the affected female is considerable. There is surgery followed by a very painful experience of chemotherapy and years of follow up with the lingering threat of it spreading to other parts to the body. Thus the potential benefits of improving preventative efforts and early detection are large.
Several years ago breast cancer was a great killer, it still is a dreadful disease but due to tremendous awareness in the general public and medical personnel the outlook is getting better. Fewer women than before get effected from breast cancer and few die from it. This is because breast cancer is one of the most widely discussed cancers in magazines, newspapers and television the world over, especially in the western world creating awareness leading to early and proper treatment.
The biggest risk factor is being a woman but you can reduce your chances of developing breast cancer with knowledge and actions you can take. Efforts must be made in Pakistan also to create awareness amongst women of this dreadful disease. Two aspects as mentioned earlier are crucial in the battle against breast cancer.
Prevention and Early Detection
Prevention is self explanatory and early detection increases the survival rate of the patients. Let us first discuss prevention.
Family history cannot be changed, also if you have dense breast which has more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fat you run a higher risk. Starting menstruation before the age of 12 also increases risk as these women have more cycles in their lifetime and longer exposure to estrogen. However, other risks can be reduced.
To make it simpler, prevention can be discussed under several subheadings:
- Lifestyle changes
- Avoidance of exposure to chemicals and toxins
- Regular screening
- Genetic testing
- DNA test
- Smoking has been linked with development of breast cancer especially in premenopausal women.
- Breast cancer is more common in obese women especially if obesity occurs after menopause, hence it is important to keep weight in check and reduce weight if obese. After menopause ovaries stop making estrogens and most of estrogen comes from fat tissue. The more the fat the more the estrogen and that increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Exercise is known to reduce the risk, 150 minutes (half an hour five times a week) is recommended as minimum.
- Breast feeding may have a role in reducing the risk of Breast Cancer.
- Not having children is associated with increased risk.
- HRT, Hormone replacement therapy is known to increase the risk especially if combination hormones are taken on for several years like 3 to 5 years. If you have to take hormones due to symptoms stay under monitoring by your doctor. It is believed by many doctors that Bio-identical hormones carry a lesser risk.
Eating a healthy diet may decrease the risk of breast cancer, also healthy diet prevents obesity which is linked with development of breast cancer. There are some foods which may have a role in prevention such as:
- Flaxseed which contains Omega 3 and fibre which may form a protective shield against breast cancer cells.
- Garlic is known to improve immune system and prevent tumor growth.
- Pomegranate, recommended because of polyphenols, mainly ellagic acid which has high antioxidant properties and may prevent cancer growth.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage
- Salmon fish due to high concentration of Omega 3 and Vit D which help regulate cell growth and prevent cancer. Vit D is gaining a reputation as providing protection from breast cancer.
- Pepper, all kinds red, green and jalapenos have phytochemicals and nutrients to fight cancer
- Turmeric, Curcumin in turmeric fights many cancers including breast cancer
- Walnuts contain Omega 3, antioxidants and other chemicals which make this nut and ideal anti breast cancer food.
- Berries, all berries are a rich source of antioxidants and phytochemicals which reduce oxidation and cancer cell formation
- Whole grains like quinoa, barley, oats and brown rice may have a role
- Legumes and lentils contain fibre and nutrients that lowers the risk
- Green tea, when consumed regularly, may lower the incidence of breast cancer due to its phytochemicals
Avoidance of Exposure to Chemicals and Toxins
According to University of Columbia’s School of public health, many cancers are due to accumulation of toxins in the body. Many industrial chemicals are xeno-estrogens or false estrogens that mimic estrogens in the body and increase the risk of breast cancer. Some of the important chemicals are as follows:
- Gasoline, diesel and vehicle exhaust. Emission from industrial facilities especially synthetic rubber manufacturing and petroleum refining, this is important for females working in industrial units.
- Flame retardants
- Stain resistant textiles
- Paint removers
- Acrylamides from foods cooked at high temperature especially French fries
- Aromatic amines are intermediary compounds in industrial synthesis of polyurethane, pesticides and dyes.
- Benzene from tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust, it is also used in some consumer products such as adhesive removers, paints, engine fuels and oils
- Ethylene and propylene oxide used in sterilisation medical equipment, food and spices, clothing and musical equipment, females working in such industries need to be aware of the risk
- Styrene, exposure to styrene is mainly due to inhalation of cigarette smoke and intake of foods which have been in contact with polystyrene. Styrene is present in consumer products like carpets, adhesives, home maintenance products
- Hormone stimulators and endocrine disrupters
Screening on a regular basis is of extreme importance for early detection as it may save life and miserable condition for years, it involves the following:
- Regular breast examination by self and your doctor
- Ultrasound of breast
- MRI scan
- Mammograms especially in high risk women
- Biopsy, needle or surgical of any suspicious lump in the breast.
Genetic testing can help estimate your chances of developing cancer in your lifetime. It does this by searching for specific changes in your genes, chromosomes or proteins, these changes are called mutations. Genetic testing may help predict risk of a particular disease including breast cancer, find if you have genes that may pass increased cancer risk to your children. Once you are known to have increased risk you can manage this by taking steps to reduce the risk. Angelina Jolie is well known for having genetic testing done and taken action in the light of the result.
DNA Blood Test
A new test has been devised vey recently to detect cancer very early and to also diagnose where the tumor is growing. Cancer blood test works by screening for DNA released by dying cancer cells. The test can also tell the location of the tumor. When a tumor starts to take over a part of the body it competes with normal cells in that part for nutrients and space, killing off many normal cells in the process. The dying normal cells release their DNA in the blood stream and that DNA could identify the affected tissue.
This test is a huge advancement as this will enable doctors to identify cancer years earlier than is possible with biopsy, this increases chances of cure and saving lives. It also enables doctors to identify cancer before it has any chance to spread and before any symptoms or lumps appear.
This test is at present being done in only few centers in USA, Europe and Dubai but will be available soon and will be diagnostic for all cancers.
I hope this gives you sufficient knowledge to identify your risk and take positive and serious steps for prevention from this dreaded disease.