Breast Cancer Awareness: Tips vs myths
THE month of October is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Chances are, you or someone you love has been affected by breast cancer; it’s become a well-documented disease, affecting one in eight US women over the course of their lifetime. But thanks to increased awareness and early detection steps, dire breast cancer diagnoses are decreasing more and more each year.
In truth, caring for our breasts involves numerous steps including home self-exams and yearly mammograms.
Overall breast health not only keeps you aware of the state of your breasts, but it’s also a huge plus for the rest of your body.
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell what breast cancer and breast health tips are facts, and which are myths. Below, we’ve selected a list of four commonly searched questions concerning breast health.
To get the facts straight, we spoke to M Michele Blackwood, MD, FACS, Breast Surgeon and Director of Breast Health and Disease Management at RWJBarnabas Health. Is there a link between bras and breast cancer? If you’re like most women, you may be wearing the same size bra that you wore ten years ago. However, just like the rest of our body, our bra size can change just as often as our waist (possibly up to five times during a lifetime).
A well fitting bra makes the girls look good while avoiding strap indentations in the shoulder or straps that just won’t stay up, and with properly supported breasts, your posture will improve.
While it’s true that wearing a snug fitting bra can restrict lymph flow (a part of your immune system), making it difficult for your body to remove toxins, according to Blackwood, “Wearing the right bra or not wearing one is not a risk factor and does not seem to influence the diagnosis of breast cancer.” Speaking of lymph flow … Are lymph massages right for me? There are theories that wearing an underwire all the time can restrict lymph flow, which hinders your body’s ability to remove toxins and therefore can cause somewhat of a back up. (Blocked lymph flow is especially prevalent after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, such as during a mastectomy).
Licensed massage therapists can follow the structure of the lymphatic system, allowing the built up lymph fluid to drain through the correct channels. But how do you know if lymph massages will work for you? “Following breast cancer surgery, the removal of lymph nodes or radiating lymph nodes may contribute to swelling called lymphedema. Lymphatic therapy can help in these circumstances,” said Blackwood.
Continue reading below How can I reduce my daily chemical exposure? Whether it’s eliminating aluminum from your deodorant or parabens from your shampoo, reducing your exposure to chemicals and preservatives offers your body and liver a break, and can reduce your risk of diseases in general.
Chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, a system which helps regulate the body including activity of your cells and organs. You can reduce your exposure by eliminating BPA (bisphenol A) cans, drinking filtered water and eating organic produce.
But when it comes to breast cancer specifically, Blackwood said that “radiation exposure can increase one’s risk of breast cancer, but there is no real known risk of breast cancer from chemicals, other than cigarettes as well as daily use of alcohol. So while reducing chemical exposure is a great general health tip, it’s not a risk factor for breast cancer.
Can a healthy diet lower my risk? Eating a diet full of whole, fresh foods that are rich in antioxidants can both improve your overall health and greatly reduce your exposure to unwanted chemicals. In terms of breast cancer, Blackwood confirmed that, “it is important to eat healthy and maintain a normal weight, as it does seem to play some role in breast cancer in the postmenopausal women.”
Getting your fill of whole foods such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds that contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (when compared to Omega-6 fatty acids) have also been linked to a lower risk of breast problems. Turns out what’s good for the body is good for your breasts, too!
Remember, while these tips may promote better breast health, it’s still important to schedule regular screenings as an added precaution against breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that most women should begin yearly mammograms at the age of 45.
Following these tips with regular mammograms, such as those offered by RWJBarnabas Health, will bring us closer to turning breast cancer into a thing of the past. — American Cancer Society