October is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Early action can prevent it, early diagnosis and treatment can cure it.

Breast cancer (illustrative photo) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Breast cancer (illustrative photo)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Although breast cancer is the most common cancer in women around the world – with about 1.4 million new cases and 458,000 deaths a year – things can be done to prevent it, diagnose it early and treat it, according to the Israel Cancer Association.
In Israel, some 5,000 women are diagnosed each year.
If detected early, around 90% of them recover.
Maintaining a lifestyle that includes physical activity, normal body weight, a healthy diet, limited alcohol and no smoking can reduce the risk. It has been scientifically proven that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, thus it is recommended that women who give birth breastfeed for as long as they can, instead of feeding formula.
Hormone replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause may slightly increase the risk of cancer of the breast, ovary and uterus. It is important to consult a gynecologist on the pros and cons of treatment.
More and more studies show that there is a relationship between physical activity and reduced breast cancer risk, especially after menopause. A lack of exercise is responsible for 10% to 16% of breast cancers. Physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer regardless of risk related to body weight. Lifelong exercise is best for reducing risk, but it is also helpful to start physical activity at any stage of life. Physical activity can also reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence.
Women are encouraged to choose a type that they like and include it as part of their lifestyle.
For the best success with any new exercise program:
• Regard time set aside for exercise as a special appointment and mark it down in your diary.
• Try to include in your daily routine even moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, climbing stairs whenever possible, walking the dog and getting off the bus one stop before the permanent.
• Start slowly and gradually try to increase the intensity, the amount of time spent exercising and the frequency.
• Perform 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
• Instead of meeting a friend in a cafe or a restaurant, try to schedule a joint meeting for a conversation while walking.
• Use rewards and reinforcement, buying yourself a little gift each time you reach a target.
Studies have not proven with certainty a link between certain foods and risk of breast cancer, but a healthful, balanced diet has been shown to reduce risk.
Fat intake should not exceed 30% of the daily diet. It is also recommended to eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains and limit intake of red and processed meat, especially if it they are smoked, fried or canned.
Foods with a lot of calories, sugar, fat or salt should be avoided. The nutritional composition on the label, and fat and sugar content should be noted. Consumption of alcohol should be cut and sugary drinks should be avoided as much as possible, advises the ICA.
Physical inactivity and being overweight account for 25% to 33% of breast cancers. A body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 is optimal to reduce the risk of breast cancer. There are free BMI calculators on the Internet. A waist circumference of 80 centimeters or more is a risk factor for women.
Smoking increases the risk of various cancers, including breast cancer. Avoiding cigarettes and all tobacco products – including hookah – will reduce risk significantly. Studies have shown that smoking shortens life expectancy by about 10 years. Mammography imaging of the breast is considered the best method for identifying breast tumors at an early stage.
It is available as a screening tool every two years for women 50 and over, and more frequently for women with a family or personal history of the cancer.