October marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month, so now is the perfect time to consider getting screened or looking into genetic testing. Breast cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in women—about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer within their lifetime. However, early detection and knowing how to keep breasts healthy can greatly increase your odds for fighting against the disease before it spreads.
Our women’s health providers at Amy Brenner, MD & Associates recommend that women of all ages go through some form of regular screenings or genetic testing to ensure breast health.
How to keep breasts healthy
Dr. Amy Brenner goes over essential things to know about breast health 👇
Breast health is important for overall health! Below, we explain some of our top tips on how to keep breasts healthy.
Regular breast exams
Consistent, regular exams are vital for checking in on your breast health and detecting irregularities. Many people don’t realize that there are two types of breast exams you should have regularly: self exams and a professional exam with a provider.
You can do monthly self exams as a regular part of at-home health care. Self exams are very beneficial because you become really familiar with what normal breast tissue feels like. The more consistent you are with your self exams, the better chances you have of catching abnormalities long before your yearly exam with a women’s health physician.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends performing a self breast exam once a month. When you perform your own exam, look for traits that are out of the ordinary, like:
- Skin changes such as redness and/or swelling
- Increased breast size or a change in shape within a short period of time
- Sensitivity when touching breasts, including a warm sensation or hardness
- Peeling or flaking nipple
- Small lump within breast tissue
- Pitting in the skin (similar to cellulite or the skin of an orange)
You may find it helpful to keep a diagram and/or notes on each exam of specific areas of where you notice something. It’s also important to establish a specific time each month for the exam so it’s consistent. Many find that doing their breast self exam in the shower is easiest.
For most women, we recommend annual breast exams. Certain factors can make it so you should receive one more than once a year, like if you are over 40 or have a family history of breast cancer. You and your provider will find what works for you. A physician exam is very similar to the self exam, where they will feel for anything unusual throughout your breast tissue.
A combination of regular self exams and physician breast exams is one of our most important tips for how to keep breasts healthy. Early detection for abnormalities leads to better outcomes, and consistent exams are an amazing tool to ensure breast health.
One of the ways you can help monitor your risk of breast cancer is through genetic testing. If you’re in the Cincinnati area, you may be interested in Myriad MyRisk genetic testing, a blood test determining whether you have genes associated with cancer. Many of our patients choose to undergo this test that assesses risk for breast cancer. If there is a family history of ovarian, pancreatic, and colon cancer, MyRisk can also test for these genes.
Some factors that may make you a good candidate for Myriad MyRisk testing include:
- Are 26 years or older (exceptions are made if you have a family history)
- A family member who’s had breast cancer at a young age
- Male family member who’s had breast cancer
- Family members who’ve had multiple cancers
This blood test produces your results after 4 weeks. When your results come back, your provider will review them with you and help you understand the next steps you should take.
The test gives you a risk percentage and looks for inherited changes in BRCA genes. This is integral for determining if you are predisposed for breast cancer or not.
If your family has a history of cancer but you don’t have the genetic mutation, you may have some risk, but the risk would be higher if you have the mutation. If you are at a high risk for breast cancer, your provider may recommend starting regular mammograms at an earlier age.
If you test positive for the gene mutation, it’s important to get regular mammograms and exams by your doctor.
Lifestyle Factors | How To Keep Breasts Healthy
The following tips are for anyone who wants to promote better breast health, whether you’ve been established as high risk or just want to be proactive.
Healthy estrogen metabolism
Estrogen is essential for many reasons, but healthy estrogen pathways are important to help protect your body from conditions like dementia or osteoporosis.
Unhealthy estrogen pathways promote breast cancer. To promote healthy estrogen metabolism pathways, we may recommend the following:
- Eat one serving of cruciferous vegetables daily. Broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and radish are all great cruciferous vegetable options.
- After discussing with your doctor, take an EstroDim supplement to promote proper estrogen metabolism.
Supplements can be a fantastic way to boost the healthy ingredients in your system. For breast health, we recommend Selenium, Iodine, and B supplements, as they have been shown to support healthy breast tissue and are difficult to obtain through diet alone.
Our practitioner-grade supplement recommendations include:
- Methyl CPG
- Vitamin D
- Fiber Plus
- 7 Day Detox Kit
- Essential Estrogens Urine Test (provider recommended)
- Cortisol Saliva Testing (provider recommended)
Vitamin D optimization
Sufficient vitamin D levels are integral to health in many ways and have been shown to possibly protect against many health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast cancer.
Related: Vitamins for Breast Health
You can get vitamin D from several sources, like sun exposure, vitamin D-rich foods, and supplements.
Foods to promote breast health
Speaking of foods, there are several tips to keep in mind when understanding how to keep breasts healthy.
Go for organic and hormone-free animal products and produce to reduce your exposure to unwanted pesticides and hormones.
Avoid excess sugar so you can keep your blood sugar and insulin levels at a healthy level so you don’t increase your estrogen levels.
Promote gut health by eating probiotic-rich foods to help your microbiome. A healthy microbiome helps strengthen your immune system and aids in digestion and estrogen detoxification.
Finally, avoid excess alcohol consumption and limit it to 1 drink per day, 5 total per week.
Other Helpful Factors | How To Keep Breasts Healthy
Make regular exercise a priority
You can never go wrong with regular exercise when it comes to your health. There are so many ways to be active; exercise doesn’t have to be a boring run on the treadmill (unless you find this fun 😉)! We recommend finding an activity you enjoy while getting some movement in for your physical and mental health.
A few fun and easy exercise ideas:
- A walk with a friend, your dog, or solo
- Dance exercise videos
- Group exercise classes
- Racquetball, pickleball, or disc golf
- Jump rope or hula hoop
- Bike riding
Get adequate sleep
Your body needs sleep in order to function at its best. According to the CDC, Adults between 18 to 60 years of age need 7 or more hours of sleep a night to be well-rested.
Up Next: How Can I Improve My Breast Health?
Maintain a healthy weight
Like many health issues, breast cancer may be related to an unhealthy weight. Doing your best to maintain a weight that is healthy for you is just another step to supporting breast health and lowering your risk of breast cancer.
Avoid toxin exposure
Certain chemicals are “endocrine disruptors” that can disrupt normal breast development, induce early puberty and increase breast cancer risk. These can be in everyday products, and the most common chemicals are BPA, phthalates, Triclosan, and parabens. Some common sources for those chemicals include:
- Personal care products
- Food packaging
- Cleaning products
For more information and tips on products to avoid, visit Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.
Learn more about how to keep breasts healthy and schedule a breast cancer prevention appointment at Amy Brenner, MD & Associates
For breast cancer awareness month, put your health first. Our health experts provide accurate genetic testing for people of all ages. With our vast array of wellness programs, we can not only help reduce your risk of breast cancer, but also boost confidence by helping you reach your cosmetic goals.
At Amy Brenner, MD & Associates, we offer a warm, friendly environment while providing the highest quality surgical procedures and aesthetic treatments to help you look great and feel great. No matter what, we will stick with you throughout your entire journey because your goals are our goals.
Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products/treatments have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products/treatments are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, including breast cancer.