Breast Cancer Prevention: An Empowered Approach
Updated: Oct 1
Welcome to our latest blog post! Today, we're delving into a topic that affects millions of people worldwide - breast cancer. In this post, we'll explore proactive, evidence-based strategies, from regular screenings to lifestyle changes that may help reduce risk of breast cancer. Through an empowering, informed approach, we can all find ways to minimize our risk. Let’s dive in!
The Importance of Regular Screening
Mammograms and breast exams aren't just check boxes on a to-do list; they're life-savers. These screenings catch abnormalities early, offering better treatment options. So while a mammogram is not going to prevent you from getting cancer, it’s at the top of the list because catching cancer early may increase survival. The age to start screening depends on your risk factors. Your doctor can help determine your risk and an appropriate screening schedule.
Spotting Red Flags
New breast lump, nipple changes, swollen under arm lymph nodes. These can all be signs of cancer or precancerous changes. If you notice any of these changes, talk to your healthcare provider ASAP. It may be nothing serious, but if it is, catching it early can make all the difference.
Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes for Breast Cancer Prevention
Rethink Your Drink
Ever heard of Gruvi or Hop Water? They’re just a couple of many non-alcoholic brands. If you enjoy flavorful beverages it’s worth considering some alternatives. Just 1 alcoholic drink per day may be enough to increase your cancer risk. One possible explanation for this is that alcohol affects the way our bodies metabolize estrogen.
While no single food or diet can promise complete protection against breast cancer, including a variety of fruits and vegetables into your meals each day can be a step in the right direction and fruits and veggies have many benefits including keeping us regular and feeling better digestively.
Physical activity is a win-win. Not only can it lower breast cancer risk, but it may reduce the risk of getting cancer again and improve tolerance of cancer treatments. Plus there are so many other reasons to get our bodies moving including improved mood, sleep and maintaining mobility as we age. The reason there isn’t a specific guide here on how much to exercise or at what intensity is because physical activity 3-5 days a week in ways that we are able is more important than the specifics. It can be easy to get caught up in all or nothing thinking when it comes to physical activity. Finding options you enjoy enough to do consistently or rotate through will be more helpful than aiming to do something you dread and forcing yourself to do it once a week at most because it feels more like a chore than something you look forward to. Figure out what brings you joy which may be the activity itself or what comes along with the activity such as time with friends, family and pets, listening to a book or fun podcast or walking to a nearby coffee shop.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Research suggests Vitamin D may support healthy estrogen metabolism, thereby potentially reducing risk. This is early research, but there are many reasons to make sure we are getting enough including bone health and supporting our immune systems. Consult your dietitian to find out if supplementing vitamin D is appropriate for you and to learn how much you need.
The Plastic and Paraben Problem
Plastics and parabens are sometimes called endocrine disruptors meaning that they alter the way our body metabolizes hormones.
Minimize plastic consumption by storing and reheating food in glass or ceramic as often as possible. Plastics like BPA, PVC, polystyrene or styrofoam can leach into food, especially when heated.
Paraben absorption can be minimized by choosing paraben-free lotions, sunscreens, deodorant, cosmetics and hair products.
Having life balance is important so rather than tossing out all your current kitchenware and skincare products in preparation to shell out a bunch of $$ for new items, consider choosing different options when you are ready for new ones. Try some of these options for repurposing plastic food storage containers: growing houseplants, storing office supplies, storing jewelry, organizing socks in a drawer, organizing craft materials, organizing small toys, or creating a first aid kit.
The Soy Saga
Soy's got a bad rap but research suggests that soy intake prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer does not appear to negatively impact survival and may even improve it. So if you're into tofu, enjoy!
The Diet Dilemma
No diet or supplement can bulletproof you against breast cancer. In general it’s important to know that there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how to eat. What feels good and is nourishing to one person may make another feel sick. Because research on nutrition, supplements and cancer prevention is so conflicting, eating in a way that supports your overall well-being is likely best. If you feel unsure if you are eating in a way that is best for you, consider working with a non-diet or intuitive eating dietitian to learn more about how to tune into your body's cues for eating along with gentle nutrition tips on ways to get enough variety and balance without obsessing over food.
Wrapping It Up: Starting Your Empowered Journey
We've journeyed through a landscape of strategies and insights designed to arm you with options for breast cancer prevention. While some aspects are beyond our control and people still get cancer regardless of diet and lifestyle choices (read, there’s no shame in getting cancer, it sucks and it’s not fair), it's liberating to realize how much agency we do have— from making informed decisions about screenings to embracing nourishing food choices and getting our bodies moving in joyful ways.
It's not about overhauling your life overnight or locking into rigid practices. Instead, we advocate for small, sustainable changes that add up to a lifestyle aligned with long-term well-being, which may look different from person to person.
Consult with healthcare professionals for tailored advice, whether it's determining the most effective screening schedule for you, assessing your vitamin D needs, or adopting a more intuitive approach to eating. Prevention is possible, and you're not alone on this journey.
This blog post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation.