While we have yet to find a cure for breast cancer, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk. Kristi Funk, M.D., a surgical breast specialist and founder and director of the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, has teamed up with Yoplait's Save Lids to Save Lives campaign to educate women about risk factors and early detection. Find out what healthy breast habits you should start today.
Maintain a healthy weight
Women who are overweight are not only more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but also have a higher rate of recurrence and mortality. The good news is that adopting a healthy eating and exercise plan is a simple way to protect your health. In terms of exercise, just 11 minutes a day of brisk walking will lower your odds of breast cancer by about 20 percent, says Funk. Your risk drops by 50 percent if you work out vigorously for three to four hours a week.
Eat a balanced diet
While it's widely known that eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables has numerous health benefits, there are certain cancer-fighting foods that offer additional protection. Foods rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, such as carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes, lower breast cancer risk by 20 percent, notes Funk. Vitamin D and calcium are also important nutrients for warding off breast cancer. Get your daily D dose from fish, such as salmon, trout, sardines. Strong sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese and vegetables like broccoli and kale.
While it's important to have your breasts checked by your ob-gyn during your annual exam, you should be doing a breast self-exam once a month. "Preferably, you want to examine yourself one week after your period; that's when you have less estrogen stimulation, so your breasts are not as lumpy or tender," says Funk. "The best place is in the shower because you can soap up your hands and your fingers will glide easily over your skin." Using the pads of your fingers, make little circles starting at the outside perimeter and working your way toward the nipple. Don't forget to examine your armpits as well.
Know your breasts
It helps to be familiar with your breasts so you can easily detect abnormalities. According to Funk, any change in your nipples could be a worrisome sign. Detecting a swollen lymph node in your armpit is a subtle finding, which deserves further exploration. If your skin changes to a red or orange color or becomes thickened like an orange peel, this could be a symptom of inflammatory cancer. A change in the overall size of your breasts without gaining weight is another abnormal finding. If you notice any of these changes, be sure to have them checked out by a doctor.