THE COM­PLETE GUIDE TO BREAST HEALTH

BREAST CAN­CER IS ONE OF THE LEAD­ING CAUSES OF CAN­CER DEATH IN WOMEN EV­ERY YEAR. HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO EN­SURE YOUR OWN BREAST WELL­NESS NOW AND IN THE FU­TURE

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Lisa Turner

Breast can­cer is one of the lead­ing causes of can­cer death in women ev­ery year. Here’s what you can do to en­sure your own breast well­ness now and in the fu­ture.

Breast can­cer is a big, scary di­ag­no­sis. But many other is­sues, like be­nign lumps, bumps, and breast ten­der­ness, af­fect women ev­ery day. Here’s your com­plete guide to pro­tect­ing your breasts against can­cer and other con­di­tions, from pu­berty through menopause and beyond.

BREAST CAN­CER

In spite of ad­vances in treat­ment, breast can­cer is fright­en­ingly preva­lent, and af­fects more than 12 per­cent of Amer­i­can women. That means if you have eight fe­male friends who live to be 85, at least one of them will prob­a­bly get breast can­cer at some point dur­ing her life. The good news: it’s very treat­able if de­tected early, and in nine out of 10 cases, she’ll live at least an­other five years, and usu­ally longer. But once it starts to spread, treat­ment be­comes dif­fi­cult—so it’s im­por­tant to get reg­u­lar screen­ing ex­ams and check your breasts reg­u­larly (see the side­bar “How to Do a Breast Exam”).

Although the ex­act causes of breast can­cer aren’t clear, the main risk fac­tors are. Some of the most sig­nif­i­cant in­clude: ✜ AGE: about 67 per­cent of women who get breast can­cer are over 50; most of the rest are be­tween 39 and 49 years old. ✜ MED­I­CAL HIS­TORY: women who’ve pre­vi­ously had breast can­cer—or en­dome­trial, ovar­ian, or colon can­cer— are at greater risk.

✜ FAM­ILY HIS­TORY: women whose mother, sis­ter, or daugh­ter have had breast can­cer, es­pe­cially be­fore menopause, are two to three times more likely to de­velop breast can­cer.

✜ GE­NET­ICS: mu­ta­tions in cer­tain genes—called BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes—pre­dis­pose a woman to breast can­cer, with a life­time risk of 45 to 80 per­cent. ✜ ETH­NIC BACK­GROUND: AfricanAmer­i­can women are more likely to get breast can­cer be­fore menopause. ✜ HOR­MONES: the greater a woman’s ex­po­sure to es­tro­gen, the more likely she is to de­velop breast can­cer. Spe­cific fac­tors that in­crease risk in­clude early start of men­stru­a­tion, late menopause, and Hor­mone Re­place­ment Ther­apy (HRT) with com­bined es­tro­gen and pro­ges­terone.

✜ RA­DI­A­TION: high doses of ra­di­a­tion can in­crease the risk of breast can­cer.

✜ OBE­SITY: obe­sity al­ters es­tro­gen me­tab­o­lism and in­creases risk, es­pe­cially in post­menopausal women.

✜ DRINK­ING AL­CO­HOL: women who have three al­co­holic drinks per week have a 15 per­cent higher risk.

✜ HIGH-FAT DI­ETS: women whose di­ets are high in fat from red meat or dairy prod­ucts are more likely to get breast can­cer; re­duc­ing daily calo­ries from fat to less than 20 to 30 per­cent may pro­tect against breast can­cer.

While other re­search on the link be­tween diet and breast can­cer is less clear, cer­tain foods and nutri­ents have been shown to of­fer pro­tec­tion. Some of the best:

✜ YEL­LOW-OR­ANGE FRUITS AND

VEG­ETA­BLES. Sweet pota­toes, car­rots, mango, pa­paya, pump­kin, can­taloupe, and but­ter­nut squash are high in carotenoids, an­tiox­i­dants that re­duce breast can­cer risk by as much as 18 to 28 per­cent.

✜ DARK LEAFY GREENS. Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, col­lard greens, beet greens, mus­tard greens, and turnip greens are high in beta-carotene and other carotenoids, called lutein and zeax­an­thin, that re­duce breast can­cer risk. ✜ CRUCIFEROUS VEG­ETA­BLES. Broc­coli, cau­li­flower, cab­bage, radishes, Brus­sels sprouts, kale, arugula, and other mem­bers of the bras­sica fam­ily in­hibit the de­vel­op­ment of can­cer cells, pro­mote can­cer cell death, and re­duce breast can­cer risk. ✜ LEGUMES. Kid­ney beans, chick­peas, white beans, brown lentils, and dried peas are high in fiber, shown to re­duce the risk of breast can­cer. The pro­tec­tive ef­fects of fiber are es­pe­cially strong among women who eat more high-fiber foods dur­ing ado­les­cence and young adult­hood. ✜ COLD-WA­TER FISH. Sal­mon, tuna, sar­dines, mack­erel, and her­ring are rich in EPA and DHA, types of omega-3 fats that pro­tect against breast can­cer de­vel­op­ment and en­cour­age can­cer cell death.

✜ SEEDS. Flax seeds, sesame seeds, pump­kin seeds, and other seeds, as well as soy, legumes, and grains, are high in lig­nans, plant com­pounds that may re­duce the risk of breast can­cer by as much as 40 to 50 per­cent.

✜ TEA. Both green tea and black tea con­tain polyphe­nol an­tiox­i­dants and other phy­to­chem­i­cals that pro­tect against breast can­cer.

OTHER BREAST IS­SUES

Can­cer isn’t the only con­di­tion af­fect­ing the breasts. Though most of the fol­low­ing breast prob­lems aren’t in­dica­tive of can­cer, any changes should be checked out by a physi­cian. Some pri­mary con­cerns, and ways to pre­vent or treat them nat­u­rally:

✜ LUMPY BREASTS. Be­nign breasts lumps, thick­en­ing, small masses, or cysts— known as fi­bro­cys­tic changes—may be caused by hor­monal shifts, es­pe­cially be­fore and dur­ing the men­strual cy­cle and preg­nancy.

✜ BREAST PAIN. Sen­si­tive, sore, or painful breasts, called mastal­gia, may be caused by hor­monal shifts, and symp­toms tend to re­solve on their own. Other breast

pain that’s not re­lated to the men­strual cy­cle is usu­ally re­lated to an­other is­sue, like a mus­cle strain un­der the breast or skin in­jury. ✜ IN­FLAM­MA­TION OF THE

BREASTS. Red­ness, heat, lumpi­ness, and pain, a con­di­tion known as mas­ti­tis, is most com­monly caused by an in­fec­tion dur­ing breast­feed­ing; block­age and in­flam­ma­tion of the breast duct at other times can also cause mas­ti­tis.

✜ NIP­PLE DIS­CHARGE. Small amounts of fluid com­ing from the nip­ples are nor­mal dur­ing preg­nancy or breast­feed­ing, and may also be caused by hor­monal changes, fi­bro­cys­tic breasts, in­jury to the breasts, or some en­docrine dis­or­ders. Bloody dis­charge should al­ways be eval­u­ated as soon as pos­si­ble.

NAT­U­RAL SUP­PLE­MENTS

Nat­u­ral sup­ple­ments can ease be­nign breast con­di­tions, es­pe­cially lumps, cysts, and breast pain. Some of the best:

✜ VI­TA­MIN E. Re­search shows tak­ing 200 to 400 IUs of vi­ta­min E each day may re­duce the sever­ity of breast pain and ten­der­ness.

✜ VI­TA­MIN B . In one study, 6 women who took 40 mg per day of vi­ta­min B for 6 2 months had a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in breast pain and ten­der­ness.

✜ IO­DINE. Sup­ple­men­tal io­dine can ef­fec­tively treat fi­bro­cys­tic breast dis­ease and main­tain nor­mal breast tis­sue struc­ture and func­tion. Be­cause ex­cess io­dine can cause health prob­lems, check with your doc­tor first.

✜ VI­TA­MIN A. In­creased in­take of vi­ta­min A has been as­so­ci­ated with re­duced risk of be­nign breast dis­ease. ✜ OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS.

Some stud­ies show a pro­tec­tive ef­fect of omega-3 fats against be­nign fi­bro­cys­tic breast changes, as well as the pro­gres­sion of breast can­cer.

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