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Health & Fitness

What is Breast Cancer and How to Prevent It

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women worldwide, killing far too many women each year. This is unfortunate because breast cancer is a very preventable disease, and there are many ways to reduce its chances of happening. The most effective method is to know the risk factors, mainly through early detection. This post will discuss what breast cancer is, the common forms of treatment, and some steps that you can take to increase the chances of detecting it early.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that affects the breast tissue and lymph nodes. There are different types of breast cancers, but they are all malignant tumors that start in the epithelial layer, the outermost layer of cells in the breast. Breast cancer begins when cells in one or both breasts become abnormal and multiply out of control. These cells can make their way to nearby lymph nodes, developing into a tumor that takes over. It affects 1 in every 8 women in the USA, but with early detection, the chances of survival are far better than they used to be.

How Is It Treated?

The treatment of breast cancer is a complex process, typically involving a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In the treatment of breast cancer, surgery is the most common option. This is because it can remove the tumor and prevent further growth. However, this is typically considered a last resort as other options are available.

Surgery

Breast cancer can be treated by surgery, which involves removing the tumor from the breast. There are two types of cancer surgery: 

  1. Lumpectomy 
  2. Mastectomy

A lumpectomy removes only a small part of the tumor, leaving behind some healthy tissue. All or parts of one or both breasts are removed during a mastectomy, depending on how much can be removed without compromising the patient’s health. Although breast cancer surgery can be a scary prospect for many women, it can be the best way to stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Because breast cancer affects the lymph nodes, its chances are extremely high.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a prevalent treatment for breast cancer and uses different types of medications to kill off the tumor cells. Chemotherapy can be used in two ways:

  1. Systemic
  2. Local

Systemic chemotherapy is given throughout the day through an intravenous drip, while local chemotherapy is given by injections into the fat layer on the breast called lymph nodes.

Biological Therapy

Breast cancer biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s own body’s immune system to fight against their cancer. It works by manipulating the immune system to get rid of cancer cells, which are usually found in the form of tumors in some parts of the body. Biologic therapies destroy or eliminate breast cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue. It can be used for various types of cancers, including but not limited to breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves using a beam of radiation to destroy tumors and reduce the chances of them recurring. It is typically used for early-stage breast cancer, but it can also be used for later-stage breast cancer. High-energy particles, including X-rays and gamma rays, are used to kill tumor cells in radiation therapy. A medical oncologist may give this treatment in an outpatient setting or an interventional radiologist in an inpatient setting.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy uses hormones to suppress the estrogen hormone in women with breast cancer. It is often prescribed and other treatments as part of a treatment protocol. The goal is to reduce the effects and symptoms of menopause that are usually caused by estrogen depletion.

What You Can Do To Prevent Or Lower Your Chances Of Getting It

Even though treatments are improving every day and the instances of early detection are rising, prevention is still the best option. Fortunately, there are plenty of thighs that you can do to reduce the odds of developing cancer. However, you should be aware that some forms of breast cancer are hereditary, and the following suggestions are not a panacea. 

It is essential to check your breasts regularly and receive a mammogram frequently. 

Keep Your Weight Down

Since it’s been stated so often, it’s easy to tune out, but maintaining a healthy weight should be everyone’s goal. Obesity increases cancer risk, especially after menopause.

Exercise Often

There is no direct effect of exercise on breast cancer risk, but it is an excellent preventative measure as it keeps your body healthy, which in turn helps to reduce your chances of getting any cancer. Nonetheless, the effect of aerobic activity on breast cancer survivors has been studied extensively. Multiple studies have shown that long-term aerobic exercise can prevent tumor recurrence in menopausal women, even if they have a family history of breast cancer.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

Alcohol intake is a risk factor for breast cancer. Women who drink alcohol are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who don’t. Alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer by damaging DNA, increasing estrogen levels, and promoting inflammation.

Cease Smoking

Smoking is a well-known carcinogen, and stopping smoking will not only reduce the risk of developing breast cancer but almost all other kinds. If you are smoking, your risk of developing breast cancer significantly increases. This is mainly because cigarettes contain chemicals that lead to the growth of cells in the breast tissue.

Post-Menopausal Hormones Should Be Avoided

After menopause, the risk of breast cancer dramatically increases. The presence of estrogen and progesterone in women’s bodies protects them against breast cancer. However, when women avoid post-menopausal hormones, their body becomes less susceptible to the development of breast cancer. Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has also been linked to a higher rate of breast cancer.

What you can do to prevent breast cancer is to avoid consuming alcohol, smoking, and eating a healthy diet. You should also exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. If you have a family history of breast cancer in your family, you should be even more mindful of your health and visit your doctor regularly.

Susan Harris

By Susan Harris

Susan Harris is the owner of Rooted Mama Health. She is the mother to two amazing children and wife of a loving husband. She strives to provide the world with all the information they need to live a happy and health lifestyle.