When most people think of October, they think of Halloween, Autumn, and the start of colder weather. Although this is all true, October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal is to spread awareness of the disease. People are encouraged to wear the colour pink to raise awareness, whilst showing their support to people who have come into contact with breast cancer.
During this month, various entities from government, civil society, industry, and the community come together to encourage women to be breast aware, and to continue to be aware during the other months, as a lifelong approach.
Over the years, the Pink October campaign has grown stronger. Various awareness activities are being held, and people are encouraged to participate and support a good cause.
For a woman, getting to know how her breasts look and feel will help identify what is normal. A woman will, therefore, find it easier to notice any unusual changes – changes which might be symptoms of breast cancer. Everyone’s breasts look and feel different. Some people have lumpy breasts, one breast larger than the other, or breasts that are different shapes. Most breast changes can be normal. They can also be due to a benign (not cancerous) breast condition. However, it’s always important to find out what’s causing the change by consulting the doctor.
There are five simple steps to be breast aware:
1. Know how your breasts feel normally
2. Know what to look and feel for
3. Look and feel
4. Report any changes to the doctor immediately
5. Attend screening when called for
There are certain risk factors which increase the likelihood of
developing breast cancer:
• Age. In fact, 80% of breast cancer cases are in
• Having a significant family history of breast cancer,
which may be associated with inherited gene mutations.
• Having no children, or women who have their first child
later on in life.
• Starting periods early or going through menopause late. • Certain types of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
used over a prolonged period.
• Being overweight.
• Drinking excess alcohol.
Many of these factors can be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle, as research shows that the way we live influences our risk of developing breast cancer.
Body weight, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet have all been linked to breast cancer, so these might be areas where action can be taken. Regular exercise, and a healthy diet are recommended to all women, as leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent many conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as a third. A diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products, has also been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. Most studies have not found that lowering fat intake has an effect on the risk of breast cancer.
Increased body weight and weight gain as an adult are both linked to a higher risk of breast cancer after menopause. Alcohol – even low intake levels- also increases risk of breast cancer.
We have read stories in the media about specific foods or ‘anti-cancer diets’ that are meant to be particularly good for preventing cancer. However, such diets cannot substitute a general healthy, balanced diet. Apart from this, any single food on its own is unlikely to have a major impact on the risk of cancer.
Another positive factor with regards to prevention is breast feeding. Breast feeding is good for both the mother and the baby. Studies have shown that women who breastfeed are
statistically less likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not. The reasons are not fully understood, however, it could be because women do not ovulate as regularly while they are breastfeeding, and oestrogen levels remain stable.
For more information contact the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate on 23266000.
DR CHARMAINE GAUCI
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine