Being educated on how to prevent breast cancer is important because breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world, and prevention is better than hoping for a cure. According to the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 12 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every single day.
The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer per day is a number that has unfortunately tripled in the last three years.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also known as ‘Pinktober’. It’s important to spread awareness about breast cancer, especially when it comes to how to prevent breast cancer.
Dr Senthil Sundaram, the Chief Clinical Officer at Prenetics recently spoke out on breast cancer, and how we can prevent it.
Dr Sundaram says, “Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world. In 2020, over 2.3 million people were diagnosed with breast cancer. There were more breast cancer cases than lung cancer cases. Breast cancer cases are steadily increasing, so let’s discuss how to prevent it. My first piece of advice would be to get genetic screening done because you might be genetically at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.”
What Increases Your Risk of Breast Cancer?
You are likely already aware that being a woman greatly increases your risk of breast cancer since breast cancer in males is quite rare. What are some other risk factors? Dr Sundaram explains, “Several factors can increase one’s risk of getting breast cancer. Smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, eating too much-processed meat, and certain genetic mutations.”
Your risk of breast cancer also increases as you get older, so someone in their late 40s would be at higher risk than someone in their early 40s.
Preventing Breast Cancer
If you’re wondering how to prevent breast cancer, it’s important to note that there are many lifestyle changes you can make that decrease your risk. If you quit smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, and eat a healthy diet, you’ll help reduce your risk of breast cancer. You can also prevent death from breast cancer by catching breast cancer early, with a mammogram. Dr Sundaram explains, “Getting regular mammograms can help you beat breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue. It’s a screening test that helps you catch breast cancer early. When you catch breast cancer early, there’s a very high survival rate.”
It’s rare to get breast cancer when you’re younger than 40 years of age. However, it can happen. Most women start doing regular mammograms in their 30 or early 40s. You can also take preventative measures at home by doing regular breast self-exams.
How Much of Breast Cancer Risk is Genetic VS Environmental Risk Factors?
Dr Sundaram explains, “20% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member who also had breast cancer. Approximately 10% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have confirmed genetic mutations that can cause breast cancer.”
This means that most of what causes breast cancer is environmental and lifestyle factors. Being genetically at risk is rare, but if you find out you are genetically at risk, you should take it very seriously.
What Should You Do if Your DNA Test Reveals a Cancer-Causing Genetic Mutation?
If you’re at higher risk of breast cancer due to your genetics, what should you do? Dr Sundaram explains, “Those who have genetic risk factors should get mammograms and other screenings are done more regularly. These women with genetic risk factors should also start doing mammograms earlier. It is advised to start getting these screenings done as early as 25 years of age if you’re genetically at risk.”
Genetic mutations that cause breast cancer should be taken seriously. Dr Sundaram says, “Speak to your doctor about the possibility of surgically removing your breasts and ovaries if you’re finished having children and you have a genetic mutation that causes breast cancer.”
Getting a CircleDNA test to find out if you have these cancer-causing genetic mutations in your DNA is very helpful in the long run. If you find out you have genetic risk factors, you can take a more proactive approach in your preventative measures and save your own life. No matter how healthy your lifestyle is, you still don’t know what’s in your genes.
What is the Relationship Between Menopause and Breast Cancer?
Dr Sundaram explains, “People who start menopause at an older age tend to have a higher risk of breast cancer. People who take hormonal pills can be at higher risk of breast cancer at a post-menopausal age.”
Stages of Breast Cancer
There are 4 stages of breast cancer, and if you catch it early at stage 1, there is a very high survival rate.
This is why being responsible and getting regular mammograms is so important. At stage 1, you likely won’t have any symptoms of breast cancer yet, so your best shot at catching it at stage 1 is with a mammogram. Being proactive makes all the difference.