Let’s face it, the breasts of women 50 and over have been through a lot over time. From puberty, throughout adolescence, during the menstrual cycle, throughout pregnancy, and finally, during and after menopause, mammary glands (breasts) vary in appearance and feel at different times during a woman’s lifespan. Having breasts and practicing breast-health habits get more complex as womanhood evolves, and as women mature, for example performing breasts self-exams to detect any signs of breast cancer. Women, 50 and over, are not exempt from getting breast cancer, especially if they have high risk factors.
The following are some factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, according to Mayo Clinic:
- Increasing age
- Being female
- A personal history of breast cancer
- A family history of breast cancer
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk
- Radiation exposure
- Beginning your period at a younger age
- Having your first child at an older age
- Having never been pregnant
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Drinking alcohol
Before we get to breast-healthy habits, it’s important to learn why women’s breasts are at risk for cancer.
According to research–a complex interaction of genetics and environment are the contributing factors to breast cancer. Anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are genetic mutations passed through generations in families. The mutated genes that increase the risk of breast cancer have been identified as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Inside the breasts, cancer often begins in the milk ducts, but may also begin in the lobules (gland tissue). When we talk about environmental factors of breast cancer in women, we look at exposures, for example, chemicals, diet, and social factors (e.g. drug, alcohol, tobacco abuse/use).
Breast cancer in women is a strong indicator of the stress and strife of womanhood and how we internalize and hold on to complex and traumatic life experiences that are passed on to our daughters (and sons, because males also get breast cancer) genetically and environmentally. Internalization of experiences erupt and force women to deal with their traumatic life experiences and exposures. What can women do for self-preservation? As the saying goes, the answer is in the question!
When we consider that genetics and environment are contributing factors to breast cancer, we must consider a lifestyle plan as a factor for reducing risk and prevention. Whether you have or do not have breast cancer, are a survivor, or are in high risk for breast cancer, it is never too late for change and improvement. Determination, perseverance–and grace will allow for self-preservation, and the preservation of womanhood as a whole. What does a renewed lifestyle plan look like for you relative to breast health? Consider the following list of best practices for breast health:
Breast Healthy Habits for Women
- Do self breast exams. Notice any different feeling of breast tissue. View the video above.
- Include a healthy diet. According to research, a plant-based diet, e.g. Mediterranean that has healthy fats, e.g. olive oil, and no red meat
- Maintain a healthy weight. Reduce calories and increase exercise. Burn more calories than you consume.
- Exercise. At least every other day. At least 30 to 60 minutes.
- Adjust or eliminate alcohol consumption. One drink per day is recommended. However, research reveals that not consuming alcohol is best.
- Avoid smoking. First and second hand smoke increase the risk of breast cancer in women.
- Use natural/alternative hormone therapy. Research shows that the estrogen and progesterone combined medications increase the risks of breast cancer; when women discontinue usage of medications, the risk of cancer decreases. Instead try such alternatives: Soy, Black Cohosh, red clover, dong quai, ginseng
- Rise above stressful people, places, and things. Choose ways to eliminate stress, e.g. yoga, meditation, mantras, and mudras, chanting or praying.