Our in-house GP Dr Anna Cantlay explains how she lives with an increased risk of breast cancer and shares 5 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a condition that causes cells in the body to grow uncontrollably. These cells form growths, called tumours. Breast cancer is cancer that forms in breast tissue. Everyone has breast tissue – people of all ages, races and genders. In the UK, 1 in 7 women and about 1 in 100 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Dr Anna’s story
I have an increased risk of breast cancer.
There is a lot of breast and ovarian cancer on my mother’s side of the family (5 female relatives) and my mum had breast cancer at 36. Fortunately she was BRACA gene negative but I remain at increased risk, alongside my 3 sisters. I’m a mother and just turned 35, so this has been on my mind a lot.
Because my family history is significant, I spoke to my own GP who referred me to a cancer genetics service. I will now have enhanced breast screening from an earlier age (mammograms age 40).
A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors). It’s estimated that 23% of breast cancer cases are preventable (Cancer UK).
5 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- I reduce my alcohol consumption (any alcohol intake carries a risk but I try to only drink on weekends and < 14 units)
2. I don’t smoke . Smoking is a known risk factor for breast cancer. It increases your likelihood of developing the disease and decreases survival rates in people who do develop breast cancer.
3. I am physically active and try to do 150 minutes moderate intensity exercise per week. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do for your heart and overall health. Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces stress–both of which may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
4. I breast fed my son (I appreciate this isn’t an it open for all)
5. I strive for a healthy plant rich diet, eating seasonal fruit and vegetables and high fibre, reducing processed foods and saturated fat where possible. Choose fruits and vegetables with colorful skins. Fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients that may help reduce cancer risk. Try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day (about 1/2 cup per serving). Examples include strawberries, broccoli, carrots or peas.
Learn more about your family history and have regular breast exams.
- Learn more about your family history and have regular breast exams.
- Breast cancer is a genetic condition, so it’s important to understand how your family history may affect you. If there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, speak with your doctor about getting screened for the disease earlier than average. You should also talk to them about ways that you can reduce risk factors for developing the condition yourself, such as exercise and diet changes.
- Regularly schedule yearly screenings with a trained professional who will perform an exam of the breast tissue using their hands or equipment that feels similar to being touched gently by someone else (not at all painful).
Overall, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer. The most important thing is to check your breasts regularly and visit your doctor for checkups and exams. If there’s anything unusual about your breasts, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Cancer Research UK: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org
Macmillan Cancer Support: www.macmillan.org.uk
Future Dreams: https://futuredreams.org.uk/