Understanding Breast Cancer

10 Steps to prevent breast cancer

Learn about breast cancer

Understanding breast cancer can help you make a more informed treatment decision. Learn about the types of breast cancer, as well as risk factors, symptoms and staging information.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer that forms in cells of the breast. The breast consists of lobules (glands that make breast milk), ducts (small tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple), fatty and connective tissue, blood vessels and lymph vessels.

The milk-producing ducts and glands are the two most likely areas to develop cancerous cells. In rarer cases, breast cancer begins in fatty tissues, also known as stromal tissues. Breast cancer may also occur in surrounding lymph nodes, especially those of the underarm.

Breast cancer incidence

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one in eight women who live to be age 80 will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. This makes the disease the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, after skin cancer. NCI estimates that 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States in 2009.

One in four cancers diagnosed in the United States is breast cancer, yet women are not the only ones receiving the diagnosis. Although the incidence of breast cancer is much less common among men, approximately 1,700 American men learn they have breast cancer each year.

Breast cancer is one of the most highly publicized cancers in the media today. Local and national breast cancer awareness events are reminders of its prevalence. Many of us know someone who previously had or is currently battling breast cancer. Fortunately, advancements in breast cancer research provide new treatment options and technologies for those battling the disease.

How breast cancer develops

The breast, like any other part of the body, is composed of cells which produces new set of cells for growth and reproduction. When the process of cell cycle fails to do its work, and there are abnormal changes in the genes that are responsible for their growth, they grow uncontrollably and form a tumor.

These tumors can actually be benign or malignant. Benign tumors may be large, but are usually non-cancerous. While malignant tumors or the cancerous ones, becomes large enough and can be identified through a mammogram and will later on develop to later stages of breast cancer development. They may even spread fast in other areas of the body.

The disease is something that can be checked on your own, therefore if you notice any lumps in the breast area, it is very important that you see a doctor to rule out any diagnosis of breast disease. However, as far as how breast cancer develops, the abovementioned statements are generally of big help.

If you think you have Breast Cancer, have your doctor schedule a mammography. Learn more about Mammography tests Here.

10-Steps to Prevent Breast Cancer

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  1. Maintain a healthy body weight (BMI less than 25) throughout your life.Weight gain in midlife, independent of BMI, has been shown to significantly increase breast cancer risk. Additionally, and elevated BMI has been conclusively shown to increase the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.
  2. Minimize or avoid alcohol.Alcohol use is the most well established dietary risk factor for breast cancer. The Harvard Nurses’ Health study, along with several others, has shown consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can increase breast cancer risk by as much as 20-25 percent.
  3. Consume as many fruits and vegetables as possible.Eat seven or more servings daily. The superstars for breast cancer protection include all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) ; dark leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach) ; carrots and tomatoes. The superstar fruits include citrus, berries and cherries.Note: it is best to eat cruciferous vegetables raw or lightly cooked, as some of the phytochemicals believed to offer protection against breast cancer are destroyed by heat.
  4. Exercise regularly the rest of your life.Many studies have shown that regular exercise provides powerful protection against breast cancer. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) five or more days a week. Consistency and duration, not intensity, are key!
  5. Do your fats right!The type of fat in your diet can affect your breast cancer risk. Minimize consumption of omega-6 fats (sunflower, safflower, corn and cottonseed oils), saturated fats and trans fats. Maximize your intake of omega-3 fats, especially from oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and herring). Consume monounsaturated oils (canola, olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados) as your primary fat source, as these foods have potential anticancer properties. Specifically, canola oil is a good source of omega-3 fats; extra virgin olive oil is a potent source of antioxidant polyphenols, including squalene; and nuts and seeds provide you with the cancer protective mineral, selenium.
  6. Do your carbs right!Minimize consumption of the high glycemic index, “Great White Hazards” – white flour, white rice, white potatoes, sugar and products containing them. These foods trigger hormonal changes that promote cellular growth in breast tissue. Replace these “wrong” carbs with whole grains and beans/legumes. Beans/legumes because of their high fiber and lignan content are especially special.
  7. Consume whole food soy products regularly, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, roasted soy nuts, soy milk and miso.Only consume organic, non-GMO (genetically modified) soy. Epidemiologic studies have shown a positive association between soy consumption and reduced breast cancer risk.
  8. Minimize exposure to pharmacologic estrogens and xeno-estrogens.Do not take prescription estrogens unless medically indicated. Lifetime exposure to estrogen plays a fundamental role in the development of breast cancer. Also avoid estrogen-like compounds found in environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals. Buy organic produce if you can afford it; otherwise, thoroughly wash all non-organic produce. Minimize exposure to residual hormones found in non-organic dairy products, meat and poultry.
  9. Take your supplements daily.A multivitamin, 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C in divided doses, 200-400 IUs of vitamin E as mixed tocopherols, and pharmaceutical grade fish oil. Also take 200 mcg of the mineral selenium or eat one to two Brazil nuts as an alternative. If you have a chronic medical condition or take prescription drugs, consult your physician first.
  10. Maintain a positive mental outlook.Engage in self-nurturing behaviors regularly. Develop rich, warm and mutually beneficial relationships with family and friends. Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours per night). The mind-body associations with breast cancer are significant.

By Ann Kulze, M.D. (taken from womenshealth.about.com)