The month of October in South Africa is breast cancer awareness month. I have had family members who had breast cancer, and I have had friends who had breast cancer. Some have triumphed and some lost the battle, so this cause is very close to my heart. Because it runs in my family, I too have a risk factor.
This is the number 1 cancer that affects women in South Africa, and I am sure that it’s prevalent in other countries too. It’s also one of the cancers that don’t necessarily need to end in death. This is why it’s so important that you know what you can do.
Just because it runs in your family, doesn’t mean you will get it.
As with many diseases, there is a fear that just because you have a risk factor that you are absolutely going to get that disease. This isn’t necessarily the case. Unfortunately, if your mom or siblings developed breast cancer before the age of 50, this could mean that you have a big chance of getting it.
In this case, know your risk, check your breasts every month, know your body, and don’t be afraid to see the doctor and make sure you know all your options.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to check your breasts every month. Check them after your period because PMS can make some women’s breast lumpy or swollen, so check them when the time is right. Early detection saves lives! If they look different, have a lump or a rash, go to the doctor.
Having said all this, we can all lower our other risk factors significantly.
Prevention starts with a healthy lifestyle:
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is one of the risk factors that contribute to your overall risk. I will be the first to tell you that you shouldn’t go after being skinny or thin, especially just for looks, but I am also the first to say, be healthy. The fact is that being overweight or obese isn’t healthy. It can take a lot of effort, but you are worth the effort.
Follow a healthy diet
Eat your veggies! Vegetables are full of antioxidants that can help you to prevent this disease. Fruits too, just don’t eat too many because of their sugar content. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are particularly good for fighting cancer. I wrote a post about the benefits of eating fruits and veggies a while ago, so if you want to know more, check it out here.
Tumeric is good too, more for men, but it’s full of so many health benefits including fighting cancer, so eat that yummy curry. I also like sprinkling it on my potatoes. Use it in combination with pepper to enhance the benefits. Teas like green tea and rooibos (red bush if you aren’t in South Africa) also have healthy antioxidants that can help.
You should also make sure that you don’t eat too much omega 6 which is found in vegetable oils and many baked goods. Too much omega 6 causes inflammation which can up your risk for cancer. You can also help to balance your levels by eating more omega 3.
You can do this by eating olive oil, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, eating leafy green veggies and/or by taking a good omega 3 supplement. It should have a combined EPA & DHA of 500mg. So check the ingredients on the label.
Inactivity has become like a plague. Dramatic? Yes. But true. Try to get up once every hour and move a little, maybe walk to the water cooler to top up your water bottle. Pick a form of exercise you like and then do it 4-6 times a week. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking, dancing, lifting weights, swimming, running, etc.
Be active and enjoy it. You’ll feel great, you’ll look great, and you’ll be healthier. If you are in a country that’s heading into winter, here are some tips for exercising in winter.
Lower your alcohol intake or even avoid it
I love wine, so I know this one can be hard. Stick to only 1 glass of wine, 1 beer or cider or only 1 shot of hard liquor per day. Try to have 3 alcohol-free days or more a week. Alcohol ups your risk almost exponentially per glass. Red wine is good for you, but even that only in moderation.
Try to avoid bingeing which is drinking more than 3 drinks in one day. Yes, I know, there are those times where you want to have some fun and have a little more. Every once in a while is fine, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Bingeing is never healthy.
Some other tips
- Do your self-examinations every month. Here is the link again if you need to know how or what to look for.
- Clinics also offer breast examinations, so if you feel more comfortable with a professional doing it, go book an appointment.
- Doctors often check your breasts when they do your pap smears. This is another test (uncomfortable I know) that you shouldn’t miss.
- If you are 45 years old and over, go for a mammogram as directed by your doctor or your country’s guidelines. If you are at a high risk, you may need to go from age 40 onwards. Find out more about screening through mammograms here.
You are beautiful!
Just a reminder from one woman to another. It doesn’t matter what the world says, whether you’ve had to deal with breast cancer or not, or what you think of yourself. You are beautiful. Your life touches those around you in ways you might not even be aware of. You make a difference every day.
So, be the best you that you can be, only you can offer the world your unique combination of gifts and personality. Do your checks, stay healthy and make every moment of your life count 🙂