October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As Aiesha Banks reminded in her weekly Healthy Kingsport column, this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and maintaining that focus is important since breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, regardless of race, contributing more than 25% of new cancer cases.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign “organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure,” Banks wrote. The executive director of Healthy Kingsport focuses on food and exercise in her Oct. 1 column.

Although more women are surviving, breast cancer has been on the rise for several years, and there’s no simple answer as to why. Breast cancer is a complicated disease with a variety of different causes, and many aspects of our lives swing our risk in one direction or another. While some of these are out of our hands, others can be controlled, which is why eating healthy and exercising can help reduce risk.

“Active women are far less likely to be diagnosed with any form of cancer. Find a type of exercise that suits you and stick to it. Doctors recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes, five times a week to maintain good health,” Banks suggests.

“The most critical part of preventing breast cancer is to check yourself regularly and get screened at least once a year. People at higher risk may choose to have screening done on a more regular basis. New, less invasive screening techniques are now available, and you can look into alternatives if you are worried about getting a mammogram.”

As to what to drink, water is best, and coffee and tea are also useful because they contain antioxidants that can reduce your risk of cancer. You should eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Foods to stay away from include grilled and red meat and processed foods. Eat them only occasionally.

If there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, your risks are higher, and you should be informed on how to reduce it. A good place to start is the Mayo Clinic. Visit mayoclinic.org and search for “reduce breast cancer risk” for dozens of articles on that subject.

You’ll learn what you likely already know: limit alcohol, don’t smoke, control your weight, be physically active, breast-feed, and limit hormone therapy. “Be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history,” the clinic advises.

In addition to decreasing your risk of breast cancer, a healthy diet also staves off diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Says the clinic, “Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses on mostly plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. People who follow the diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and eat fish instead of red meat.

To learn more about other ways you can help fight breast cancer, visit komeneasttennessee.org.

-The Kingsport Times-News