Breast Can­cer Aware­ness: Tips vs myths

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Melissa Bev­eridge Health Mat­ters

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

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