Through painstaking research over the past several decades, scientists and doctors have learned a lot about breast cancer. While they have not been able to find a cure that works for every patient, scientists have made tremendous advances in diagnostic and treatment methods. Many patients survive and are able to enjoy long-term health and a good quality of life. The medical research on breast cancer has made it possible for the public to become more aware of the nature of breast cancer and to better recognize early symptoms of the disease.
Certain lifestyle choices can put you at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. You should realize, however, that every woman (and man, though it is less likely) could get breast cancer. Regardless of the healthy choices you make, no one is completely safe from the disease.
Obesity and alcohol consumption are two of the biggest risk factors for women. Research has shown time and time again that women who are overweight or obese develop breast cancer more often than those who maintain a healthy weight. Having more than one alcoholic drink each day also boosts a woman’s risk level.
By the time a woman reaches 20 years of age, she is, to some degree, susceptible to breast cancer. Abstaining from overconsumption of alcohol, getting plenty of regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet reduces your risk of getting breast cancer, but it does not completely free you from the possibility of developing the disease. It’s important to perform a self-exam monthly–they are an easy way to check for suspicious lumps. There are numerous web sites – including this one – with instructions and videos for the self exams.
Annual mammograms or similar diagnostic tests can also catch breast cancer at its earliest stages. Because it can be difficult to find some cancer cells during a self-exam, it’s important to visit a doctor regularly for additional screening.
Self-exams and mammograms are important because women and men who detect symptoms while the disease is still in its early stages have the best chances of survival. Cancer in stages 0, I or II is also easier to treat, therefore making it easier for the patient to recover. Because treatments in these cases are less aggressive, there are fewer side effects.
Knowing general breast cancer information can help you make better lifestyle choices, but you should still talk to your doctor about your specific risks. Women who have family histories of cancer are at greater risk, and it may be necessary to take extra steps to prevent the disease. For example, women who do not breast feed have a higher statistical occurrence of breast cancer, so these individuals might want to discuss this and other information with their personal physicians. If you find that you are in a statistically elevated risk category for breast cancer, taking preemptive actions could help you plan and recognize any problems before they become too difficult to treat without resorting to therapies that can cause pain, nausea, and other side effects.