Breast cancer, prevention also passes through self-examination and a correct lifestyle

Along with screening exams, a correct lifestyle and self-examination are essential for the prevention of breast cancer.

In Italy every year there are about 50,000 women, mostly after the age of 50, who fall ill with breast cancer. However, breast cancers that occur at a younger age are not uncommon, with an incidence ranging from 10 to 20.5% between 30 and 45 years of age.

To find out what we can do every day to protect ourselves from breast cancer, we asked for the help of Dr. Sara Galli, breast radiologist at Humanitas San Pio X.

How can lifestyle reduce the risk of breast cancer?

Prevention through correct lifestyles is effective if healthy and balanced behaviors are adopted every day. In particular, a correct and healthy lifestyle must have as objectives:

  • avoid overweight and obesity : being overweight, especially if the fat is concentrated in the abdomen, together with a high-calorie and fat-rich diet, increases the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. This is because, as has been highlighted, adipose tissue (fat) contributes to the synthesis of circulating estrogen hormones, thus increasing the hormonal stimulus on the mammary gland.
  • fight a sedentary lifestyle : women who regularly play sports, since adolescence, have a reduced risk of getting sick. These effects are more evident in postmenopause.
  • avoid harmful habits: alcohol is a toxic substance, a true enemy of breast health, as is both active and passive cigarette smoke. Just over 3 glasses of alcoholic drink a day are enough to determine a 50% increase in the risk of breast cancer compared to those who do not drink, and with each lit cigarette about 4000 substances toxic to the body are inhaled.
  • take care of your breasts : self-examination, performed correctly since adolescence, can help evaluate any anomalies and lumps. It does not replace breast examinations or screening exams, but it is important to learn to take care of your breasts from an early age.

What can be done at home to correct the lifestyle and help prevention?

You can start by adopting a balanced and healthy diet, reducing the consumption of high-calorie foods, especially fats that induce fat accumulation and overweight. Together, even those who have never practiced physical activity can begin to fight laziness and a sedentary lifestyle.

Finally, quitting smoking may require the intervention of specialized anti-smoking centres, especially if you have already tried to quit smoking without success.

As for alcohol, including wine, it is important to learn to limit their daily consumption, while avoiding binge drinking , i.e. excessive alcohol consumption in a short period of time, such as on an evening with friends, because it is just as bad .

What characteristics should the diet against breast cancer have?

Seasonal fruit and vegetables, cereals (it is better to vary them, also introducing spelled, barley, red and black rice, etc.), fish, especially the blue one, a little meat (maximum once a week, both white and red) are the foods against cancer in general, and breast cancer in particular, but it is also the foods of the Mediterranean diet that have been shown to have a protective role against cancer.

The best condiment is extra virgin olive oil, without exaggerating, while animal fats, butter and margarines (hydrogenated vegetable fats) should be eliminated.

Dried fruit and oilseeds should be consumed in moderation especially if you are trying to lose weight, because they are rich in calories as well as antioxidants.

How should physical activity be?

Regular. It means that to obtain a benefit against breast cancer, and in general to keep the body healthy, physical activity must be daily, with activity levels that can vary according to the starting conditions.

Typically, 10,000 steps a day is enough, but you can start gradually if you’re not used to it.

There are no contraindications to any type of sport, from cycling to running, to swimming, avoiding exaggerating in intensity and weekly frequency.

What is the correct way to perform self-examination?

It must be done immediately after the cycle, so you are always in the same hormonal period and any changes are not due to the menstrual period.

Lying down, with the fingers of the outstretched right hand, make slow circular movements on the left breast, starting from the top (12 o’clock) and making a complete turn (returning to 12 o’clock), trying to catch any anomalies. At this point, still with the right hand, the left armpit is probed, and then the nipple.

What signs to watch out for?

Breast nodularity, more or less mobile, skin retractions, nipple secretions, axillary swellings should be immediately reported to your doctor who will evaluate any diagnostic insights.

At what age is it important to start self-examination?

At the end of the development of the mammary gland, between the ages of 20 and 25, the woman should begin to become aware of the health of her breasts, and at the same time commit to adopting a correct lifestyle for the prevention and protection of her breast health .

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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