What you need to know about breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Singaporean women. So it is crucial to know the risk factors and how you can prevent the worst.
Numbers and figures
Remember that every woman is at risk of having breast cancer and to date, it is the most common cancer among Singaporean women with one in every 17 likely to develop the disease in her lifetime.
Screenings are important
The survival rate of breast cancer is highest if detected early (Stage 1 -2), thus it is important for you to go for regular screenings in the form of mammograms and a more thorough clinical breast exam. As a rule of thumb, you should go for your first mammograms after you turn 40, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer. Otherwise, once you hit 50 and above, you should get a mammogram done every two years.
In between these screenings, you can do a self-check breast exam in your own home. What to look out for are any changes in the feel or shape of your breast as well as hard lumps.
Leading a healthy lifestyle
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, a whopping 40 percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented with lifestyle measures like eating right and exercising.
How this works is that any form of exercise, that totals to four hours a week, helps in reducing estrogen levels, a key factor in breast cancer.
According to Claudine Isaacs, MD, director of the clinical breast cancer program at Georgetown University Medical Center, weight gain after menopause is one of the risk factors of breast cancer. She explains, “In postmenopausal women, one of the most significant sources of estrogen comes from body fat so if you’re overweight, you have higher amounts of circulating estrogen, which could stimulate breast cancer growth.”
Thus it is important to maintain a healthy weight at every age. As people who have struggled with their weight will tell you, it is easier to lose weight and start living a healthily when you are younger and you have both time, youth and energy on your side.
Alcohol has an impact
If you reach for that glass of wine often, then this might come as sobering news. There is a proven link that the more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk of breast cancer. It is found that women who consumed two – five drinks a day has a 1.5 times risk of developing the cancer as opposed to those who did not have any.
Genetics play a role so it is important for you to know your family history when it comes to cancer. Women whose mothers, grandmothers or maternal aunts have developed breast cancer before the age of 50, are at a higher risk of carrying the cancer causing genetic mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2. Even though having this gene is not a confirmation that you will develop breast cancer, it does increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer by 60 percent.