Cancer, a fatal disease which involves uncontrollable abnormal cell division in the body destroying healthy body tissues, is a lifestyle disorder and can be prevented by maintaining a healthy life. Breast cancer, one of the predominant cancers among women, refers to abnormal growth of cells in the breasts. Unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle happens to be one of the leading risk factors of breast cancer. In fact, lifestyle factors not only significantly contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer but also play a vital role in the progression of the tumour and relapse of the disease. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in managing and preventing breast cancer.
Lifestyle changes that support breast cancer management
Not just management and prevention, lifestyle interventions are essential in improving the prognosis of early breast cancers. These lifestyle modifications can be a boon to breast cancer.
Alcohol consumption must be restricted: Alcohol consumption is directly proportional to the risk of developing breast cancer. The more alcohol one consumes, greater are the chances of developing breast cancer. It is ideal to stay away from alcohol consumption or at least limit it to not more than one drink a day. Even small amounts daily can enhance risk.
Healthy body weight: Obesity and excessive body weight amp up the risk of breast cancer. It is crucial to maintain a healthy body weight. Those with higher body weight must seek help from a doctor to reduce it. Reducing the number of calorie intake every day can significantly help the process of losing weight.
Being physically active is ideal: Sedentary lifestyle can be of great risk in developing breast cancer. It is recommended to be physically active to maintain healthy body weight as it helps prevent breast cancer. Adults must spend about 150 minutes a week in moderate aerobic activities and 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise in addition to strength training at least twice a week.
New mums must breastfeed: Breastfeeding is known to play a vital role in preventing breast cancer. Hence, all new mothers are advised to breastfeed their new-borns. That not only makes the babies healthy but also safeguards mothers from the risk of breast cancer.
Contraceptive options must be discussed with doctors: Hormones released by certain birth control pills and IUDs have been found to enhance breast cancer risk. It is therefore advised to women to discuss their contraception options with doctors before opting for them.
Postmenopausal hormone therapy must be limited: It has been observed that combination hormone therapy could possibly enhance the risk of breast cancer. One must be fully aware of the risks and benefits of hormone therapy and discuss the same with the doctor. It is ideal to avoid hormone therapy or go for the lowest possible dose to keep the risk of breast cancer under control.
Smoking must be stopped: Smoking is an unhealthy habit when it comes to breast cancer risk. It is important to give up smoking as nicotine is known to considerably increase the risk of breast cancer.
Eating healthy is an effective way to breast cancer management and prevention
Having healthy food and maintaining a clean diet can significantly bring down the risk of breast cancer.
● It is suggested to avoid high calorie foods daily. A healthy diet must include 2.5 to 3 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruits every day. The diet must consist of a variety of vegetables and fruits, especially dark green, red, and orange veggies and legumes like beans, lentils, peas, and soy foods.
● 100% whole grain foods like whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millets, and quinoa are healthy choices that can be made to keep breast cancer at bay.
● It is suggested to add good fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated to meals. These can be found in olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocados, and olives.
● Consumption of red meat and processed meat like beef, bacon and sausage must be curbed. Instead, chicken, fish or beans must be taken more often.
● Sugar sweetened beverages must be avoided and water and unsweetened beverages must be opted.
● Highly processed foods and refined grain products like fast food, ready-to-heat food, snack food and candy must be avoided.
● Eating organic fruits and vegetables are always better due to their enhanced nutritive value.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle has several benefits. Lowering the risk of breast cancer is one among them. Making regular screening tests for breast cancer a part of one’s lifestyle also plays an effective role in detecting the cancer at an early stage. This increases the chances of survival to a greater extent. Undoubtedly, living a healthy life is a promising preventive and managing tool for breast cancer. Consult a medical professional to learn more about the causes and risk factors of breast cancer.
By Dr. Prakash Bhagat Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Hospital, Ranchi