The month of October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a period I feel we need to look at how as women we can protect ourselves from this life-threatening disease.
With the on-going pandemic, a lot of focus had shifted to how the coronavirus has been causing havoc, forgetting that cancer has also and continues to be the worst pandemic of our time.
Anytime I hear cancer, I literally think about death. I have lost cousins and other close relatives due to cancer-related illnesses. Another close family member was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and that’s when it dawned on me that this menace is real and can get to anyone, anytime.
We see so many people soliciting funds now and then to undergo specialized treatment abroad because most of the time, the disease is usually discovered at its latest stages. Early detection remains the primary defense available to patients in preventing the development of life-threatening breast cancer,
According to a research that was carried out right here in Kenya, there are 39,000 new cancer cases and out of that 27,000 deaths are reported annually. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women followed by cervical cancer.
It has been reported that 1 in every 8 women globally will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. With these shocking statistics, everyone should be aware of the ways of preventing this deadly disease. Some risk factors such as family history cannot be changed but there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower the risk of getting breast cancer. Studies have shown that lifestyle changes have lowered breast cancer risk even in high risk women.
So I talked to the affected family member and did more research on five ways which if put to action, will reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.
For women who have given birth, breastfeeding may play an important role in breast cancer prevention. The more a woman breastfeeds her child, the greater the protective effect. This claim is based on the theory that breast cancer is related to the hormone estrogen. Researchers believe that the more our bodies are exposed to the hormone, the more the risk of getting breast cancer. Breastfeeding temporarily reduces the woman’s estrogen levels and also makes the breast go through certain physical changes that protect them against cancer chemicals.
2. Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
According to statistics, the more alcohol you drink the more risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers believe that alcohol increases estrogen levels, but they seem to differ about the amount of alcohol that increases the risk of getting the disease. Some researchers say that moderate amounts are unsafe while others say that drinking 2 bottles of wine might improve your chances of avoiding the disease. Doctors generally agree that drinking 14 small glasses of wine over a long period of time can damage your overall health.
3. Be Physically Active.
This means you exercise regularly. Research indicates that the less you exercise the higher your estrogen levels, therefore, increasing your chances of getting breast cancer. For most adults in Kenya, the department of health recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activities. Being physically active also ensures you maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese is said to increase the risk of breast cancer. Researchers found out that women who gained 44-50 pounds after the age of 18 had 40% chance of getting breast cancer compared to women who had gained 4 pounds throughout their adult life. Maintaining a healthy weight includes reducing the amount of fat intake. It is recommended not to eat more than 70g of fat. Animal studies have shown that the reduction of calorie intake by 30% reduces the risk of disease by almost 90%.
4. Be Aware Of Your Breasts.
This just means knowing how your breasts look like when laying on your side, back and while standing in front of a mirror, and also how they feel at different times of the month. This is to allow you to realize any abnormal changes at once. More than 90% of breast tumors are detected by women themselves therefore keeping an eye on changes to your breast is an important part of a woman’s health care.
5. Mammogram Screening
Early detection of breast cancer with a screening mammogram means that breast cancer treatment can commence earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread. Studies have shown that screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 70, especially for those over age 50 by as much as 40%.
Being Breast Cancer Awareness month, several hospitals across the country are offering discounted and even free breast screening services to help Kenyan women take charge of their health.
Check out the posters below and see which facility you can visit for cancer services.