Women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. If in the shower, use the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the centre, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Or if in front of a mirror, visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Or lying down, place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple. Check for discharge and lumps. Repeat for the left breast. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.


Brisk walk, weight train, jog, swim, resistance train, cycle … whatever your fancy … adopt a regular exercise routine for 30 minutes per day, for no less than three times per week. And not light exercises either, make sure to get your heart rate pumping and those sweat glands bursting. Vigorous exercises help your heart and cut your cancer risk.


Research shows that being overweight or obese (especially if you’re past menopause) increases your risk of breast cancer, particulary if you put on the weight as an adult. A study released in March 2008 by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed that obese and overweight women also had lower breast cancer survival rates and a greater chance of more aggressive disease than average-weight or underweight women.


Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Additionally, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.


A recent study showed the link between drinking and breast cancer was especially strong in the 70 per cent of tumors known as hormone-sensitive. Alcohol, consumed even in small amounts, is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer. Most doctors recommend cutting back on wine, beer, and hard liquor.


Mammography is considered the most powerful breast-cancer detection tool. Annual mammograms help detect breast cancer early and significantly improve the chances that it can be treated successfully. The five-year survival rate can be as high as 98 per cent for the earliest-stage localised disease, but hovers around 27 per cent for the distant-stage, or metastatic, disease. If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have had radiation treatment to the chest in the past, it’s recommended that you start having annual mammograms at a younger age (often beginning around age 30). Discuss with your health care provider.

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