Breast Health: The Bigger Conversation | One Healthy Boston

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Breast Health: The Bigger Conversation

Breast cancer will affect around 1 in 8 women over the course of their lives. This isn’t news to many. We are reminded of these women, and of the prevalence of breast cancer each and every October, and for good reason. Breast cancer is an increasingly important topic of discussion, but it is also part of a much larger conversation about overall breast health.

Hope and Advocacy

Raising awareness, improving early detection and screening options, and innovations in breast cancer treatments have cultivated a culture of hope, perseverance and ultimately, celebration for breast cancer survivors everywhere.

There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone, including those who are still undergoing treatment. Overall, the 5 – 10-year survival rates for patients with invasive breast cancers range from 83%-90%.  Survivors are some of the most highly-engaged advocates for improving quality care techniques, and raising awareness with risk and outreach programs. This advocacy has championed many of the advancements concerning breast health that have occurred in recent years.

Knowing Your Personal Risk Factors

Some women may never develop breast cancer, but it is still crucial that every woman familiarizes herself with her personal level of risk. Family history, lifestyle and individual genetic factors all play a role in breast health. Being aware of these risk factors is just as important as routine examinations when it comes to proactive prevention.

While certain factors like aging, inherited genetic mutations and family history are simply beyond our control, there are still ways to actively lower your personal risk of developing breast cancer:

  • Keeping a Healthy Weight – Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding excess tissue in the body and breasts will lower hormone levels in the body and limit the potential for cancerous cell growth over time.
  • Exercising Regularly – Regular exercise, even as little as 75-150 minutes a week, can inhibit cancerous cell growth by regulating healthy hormone levels in the body and supporting a healthier immune system overall. This exercise does not have to be strenuous, swimming or walking at a brisk pace a few times a week will do the trick. It is also important to limit the amount of time spent sitting, as prolonged inactivity is linked to higher risks for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
  • Breastfeeding – One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is that it is known to reduce a woman’s risk of developing pre and post-menopausal breast cancer. The hormonal changes a women experiences during lactation often delay her menstrual periods, thereby reducing her lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen, which can promote cancerous cell growth in breast tissue. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that new mothers breastfeed for at least six months, and longer if possible.

Early Detection and Screening

The importance of self-breast examinations cannot be understated, as nearly 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are initially identified using this method. Pairing these regular self-exams with routine screenings, mammograms and check-ups are the key to early detection and diagnosis. Talking with your doctor about your preemptive screening options is a small but powerful first step towards lifelong prevention.

Breast cancer, like all cancers, is unique. The disease presents itself differently in each person, which means screening options, detection methods and treatment plans should be customized for each patient. South Shore Health’s Breast Care Center prioritizes this individualized care approach with innovative diagnostic imaging technology, 3D-Mammography, genetic counseling services and a dedicated team of multidisciplinary specialists in oncology, radiology and pathology.

The Breast Care Center has received full recognition from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), ensuring that all patients are offered the highest levels of personalized and comprehensive care, before, during and after their diagnosis.

Visit southshorehealth.org to learn more about the Breast Care Center or South Shore Health’s network of breast health specialists.

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