October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re pretty sure everyone is already well aware of this scary and traumatic form of cancer. However, the sentiment behind this month’s theme is what’s truly important, and we think it’s time every woman put that awareness into practice.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 271,270 new cases of breast cancer will occur throughout 2019, 99% of which will be diagnosed in women. Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer for women, and frankly, that’s enough to convince us to take a closer look at how to stop this monster in its tracks.
Becoming aware of our own risk factors and lifestyle choices is the best possible medicine. Treating breast cancer is never easy, but preventing it can start the moment you decide to take action.
We’ve compiled some of the basics to get you started this October, and we hope you’ll feel empowered to continue these healthy routines for a lifetime. Your future could be counting on it!
Know Your Genetics and Other Unchangeable Risk Factors
Unfortunately, not all risk factors for breast cancer can be completely eliminated. Your genetics, natural aging process and medical history can all play a large role. If you’re part of this high risk category, you’re better off talking to a doctor as soon as possible so any early warning signs are quickly detected.
According to the CDC, a woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter – someone who is a first-degree relative – or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer.
This risk also increases for women over 50, those who inherited genetic mutations or dense breast tissue, and women who began menstruating before age 12.
In such cases, bring up your family history on your next gyno appointment or check-up with your general practitioner. They can recommend a course of action and possibly a specialist who can ensure you’re taking all the right precautions.
Kick the Cocktails and Nicotine Habit
This might not come as a surprise, but we can confirm: alcohol and tobacco increase your risk of breast and other types of cancers.
Drinkers raise their risk at least 28%, even in moderation, and this percentage has no ceiling. The more you drink, the better your chances become of developing breast cancer.
Likewise, those who started smoking before their first pregnancy and continued the habit of a pack per day for 20 years face a 35% greater risk of breast cancer than in women who never smoked.
So in short, quit tobacco products and cut back on the booze (though we doubt we’re the first ones to warn you here).
Color Your Meals
Here’s another no-brainer: the more veggies and fruits you eat, the lower your risk of breast cancer becomes.
Up your intake to at least 5.5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day and you’ll cut your risk by 11%, according to a study by the International Journal of Cancer. In case you were wondering, a proper “serving” equals one cup of raw leafy vegetables, half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or half a cup of chopped or cooked fruits.
But don’t let us stop you there! Go all-out and binge on Earth-grown foods as much as you like, especially broccoli. This crunchy, green vegetable is known for packing an anti-cancer punch. Dark green veggies contain the densest nutrition, so spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard, mustard, turnip, and beet greens are also excellent choices.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, berries like blueberries, strawberries and black raspberries as well as plums and peaches are also known to contain cancer-kicking antioxidants and polyphenols.
Get Up and Move
According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, women who exercise at least a moderate amount have a 30% to 40% lower risk of breast cancer than less active women.
You don’t even have to become a gym addict to nab this amazing benefit. Aim to walk or hike at least 4 hours per week and make an effort to get up out of your chair every hour if you’re at a desk from 9-5.
Additionally, just a few minutes in the sun absorbs up to 90% of your body’s daily Vitamin D needs, which helps your cells properly communicate and stick together, which prevents the spread of cancer.
Keep Up with Your Mammograms
It’s recommended to begin yearly mammogram cancer screenings beginning around age 40, of course depending on your prior risk factors. In conjunction with monthly breast self-exams, mammograms are the best way to keep tabs on your body as you age and change.
Mammograms can be a little uncomfortable, as the only way a doctor can see deep into your breast tissue is by squishing each boob flat like a pancake using a specialized x-ray machine. But we promise, it’s totally worth it to catch your cancer early! Better a mammogram now than a round of radiation therapy later.
However, depending on your location, a new type of mammogram machine might be available to take a bit of the squeeze out of the process. A company called Solis Mammography has created a proprietary technology called SmartCurve, which form fits to the breast as it presses into the tissue. Instead of having your boobs sandwiched by a straight, flat piece of plastic, SmartCurve’s rounded design makes mammograms more comfortable for up to 93% of women, according to the company’s study.
Either way, we’re all for a bit of intense-though-temporary x-ray boob squeezing if it means a lifetime of peace of mind and body.
Colleen began her sexual wellness career as a sex toy educator in manufacturing and retail. She has since branched out as a writer and marketer, covering all facets of sexual health and anatomy. At Intimina, she specializes in women’s medical care and health concerns, menstruation, sex and pregnancy, and birth control. Colleen frequently confers with top sex educators and intimate wellness experts to stay on top of the constantly changing sexual wellness space.