Breast health is part of healthy living
Talking Breast Health…
With Dr. Margot Burnell, medical oncologist, Saint John Regional Hospital
When it comes to breast health, it is necessary to both know the facts and know your body. After all, breast health is an important part of overall health and well-being.
Women and men alike should always be aware of their breast tissue to ensure nothing in the structure is abnormal or has changed over time. That means examining your breasts regularly and having a medical professional do an examination at least once a year.
Women aged 50 to 74 should have screening that includes a mammogram every two years from age 50 to 74 and those patients at high risk, who also have dense breast tissue, should be screened using additional tests such as Ultrasound, Tomosynthesis and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging.)
How can we work toward achieving optimal breast health over a lifetime? The following recommendations from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation are a great place to start:
- Maintain a healthy weight:The benefits of keeping your weight down include increased energy, improved sense of well-being and a reduction in the risk of breast cancer and other diseases.
- Eat well: By taking a balanced approach to what you put into your body, you can help ensure you get enough of the right nutrients to stay healthy, and reach or maintain a healthier body weight. This is also a key factor in lowering your risk of breast cancer.
- Be active: Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, five days a week or about 2.5 hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity.
- Consume less alcohol: It's not the type of alcohol that increases the risk of breast cancer but how much you drink and how often. Less than one drink a day is what's recommended to lessen your risk, if you've not been diagnosed with the disease.
- Don't smoke: If you needed yet another reason to butt out, here it is: evidence shows that both active smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, sometimes referred to as passive smoking, may increase your risk of developing breast cancer especially for premenopausal women. Quitting smoking significantly reduces your health risks for cancers, heart disease, stroke and lung disease, and offers immediate health benefits.
Know your risk factors:
- Familial hereditary predisposition - Approximately one in 10 breast cancers is related to a genetic predisposition.
- Duration of ovarian function, age of the onset of menarche (menstrual periods), age of first live birth and age of menopause all influence risk with earlier menarche, later age of first live birth and later age of menopause increasing the breast cancer risk.
- Previous breast biopsies showing atypical hyperplasia increase breast cancer risk.
- Patients who have received medical radiation to breast tissue especially at a younger age are at an increased risk.
Know your body, know your breast tissue and if you notice anything different that concerns you, seek the advice of a health care professional.
Although breast cancer screening extends to the age of 74, if you are healthy and a senior you are still strongly encouraged to have mammographic screening. Risk does not stop at 74.
For more information on mammography and a list of Horizon facilities offering the service, click here.