Your 3-step checklist to breast cancer prevention

 
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Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women in Canada. This disease affects one in eight women, with over 82% of these women over the age of 50.

It’s so important to take responsibility for your health, and that requires taking the necessary steps to get regular check-ups and optimize your wellness in every facet of your life. 

In honour of breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to shed light on some important steps to take to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, and ways to get checked for it. 

Here are my recommendations:

Get tested

It’s crucial to take all of the precautionary measures to prevent breast cancer, and that includes getting tested. The earlier you catch the disease, the sooner you can work to heal it. Here are the tests I recommend taking on a regular basis, especially if you are at higher risk of the disease due to a strong family history of breast cancer or previous personal history of breast cancer. 

  • Breast exam: your doctor will check both of your breasts and lymph nodes in your armpit to feel for any lumps or abnormalities.  You should also be doing breast self-exams at least once a month or every couple of months and take note of any breast changes.

  • Mammogram: an X-ray of the breast, mammograms are commonly used to screen for breast cancer.

  • Breast ultrasound: using sound waves to produce images of potential lumps in your breasts, ultrasounds can be used to give more information for breast health.

  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Using magnetic radio waves, an MRI machine creates pictures of inside your breasts. 

  • Breast Thermography: Thermal imaging that measures the temperature of the skin on the surface of breasts.

Reduce your estrogen mimickers 

Research suggests that breast cancer is associated with prolonged exposure to high levels of estrogen that occurs with early onset of menstruation and late menopause. It’s important to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are found in makeup, shampoos, soaps, household cleaners, packaged and canned foods. This is because harmful chemicals and toxins can disrupt, imitate, decrease and interfere with your natural hormone production, causing hormonal imbalances that can lead to cancer.

Referred to by the Environmental Working Group as the Dirty Dozen, here are some estrogen mimickers to look out for:

  1. BPA

  2. Dioxin

  3. Atrazine

  4. Phthalates

  5. Perchlorate

  6. Fire retardants

  7. Lead

  8. Arsenic

  9. Mercury

  10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

  11. Organophosphate pesticides

  12. Glycol Ethers

Optimize your lifestyle for overall health

We could all use less stress and more self-care. Inflammation in the body can lead to breast cancer, and inflammation can be caused by poor diet, excess use of substances like caffeine and alcohol, environmental toxins and stress. By optimizing your lifestyle to create space for a better diet and more stress-reducing practices, you’re well on your way to taking preventative measures in developing breast cancer. Here are some recommendations:

  • Practice yoga and meditation to help calm your nervous system and feel connected to your mind and body.

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

  • Up your intake of liver-supporting foods that help reduce inflammation, such as dark, leafy greens, fruits, veggies, nuts and fish.

  • Take more time for yourself to feel nourished and rested.

  • Resist the urge to over-plan and over-commit. In Chinese medicine, being too scheduled is associated with burdening the liver. Allow yourself free time to connect with nature, the people you love, and activities that help you de-stress.

Riley Webster