Many women are dealing with breast cancer in the Philippines. There were 24,798 new cases of breast cancer among Filipina women, in 2018 alone. A report by the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), in 2017, stated that the country has the highest prevalence of breast cancer among 197 countries, and no. 1 in Asia.
It is alarming to know that 1 in 13 women will develop breast cancer in the Philippines. While there is no conclusive data yet on what exactly causes breast cancer, there are many risk factors that can result in the development of the disease, which includes being overweight, not being active, and having an unhealthy lifestyle.
Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Philippines
So, it is important, as early as now, to take note of these risk factors and change your lifestyle accordingly, to prevent breast cancer from happening. Here are some things that women can do to lower the risk of developing this disease:
Maintain Desirable Weight
Being overweight can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, especially after menopause. Healthier meal patterns that are low in fat and processed or red meat and high in fruits and vegetables can help in weight management. Make sure to include different types of vegetables and fruits, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products into your diet.
Be Physically Active
Aside from a healthy diet, another component of maintaining a desirable weight is being physically active. Every week, women should aim for 150 minutes of activities of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activities. Combining that with strength training at least twice a week keeps the weight in check. For women with busy schedules, squeeze in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer. The recommended limit for alcohol is no more than one drink a day, which can include either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). However, even a low level of alcohol consumption can increase breast cancer risk, so it will be better to avoid drinking.
Do Not Smoke
Studies show that there is a link between smoking and developing breast cancer. Aside from breast cancer, smoking can also increase the risk of other complications like heart diseases, stroke, and 15 other types of cancer. Also, excessive exposure to second-hand smoke can affect the risk of having breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.
Breastfeed, If Possible
For mothers, breastfeeding does not only benefit the child’s health but it also reduces the risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding for at least six months helps in giving additional protection from cancer cell growth. Hormonal changes during lactation delay women’s menstrual periods, which reduces their exposure to estrogen that promotes the growth of breast cancer cells.
Avoid or Limit Hormone Therapy
For women undergoing hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask the doctor for other options. Despite lowering the risks of other diseases, three to five years of hormone therapy can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. If non hormonal therapies and medications do not work, make sure to use the lowest dosage that works and have consistent communication with your doctor to monitor how long the medication will take.
Avoid Exposure to Radiation
Excessive cumulative exposure to radiation can increase the risk of breast cancer. Medical examinations, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, uses radiation, so make sure to undergo such tests only when necessary.
Unfortunately, women cannot have control over some risk factors of breast cancer, such as age and family history of cancer. However, it does not mean that there is nothing you can do to monitor them. Also, being informed of these risk factors will help you be more aware and vigilant to be more proactive in taking the necessary steps to avoid breast cancer. Here are some tips for women that have increased risk of breast cancer:
Genetic Counseling and Testing
A family history of breast cancer can increase the risk of developing breast cancer for women. A gene mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer- like BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene- may be passed down to family members. To know the presence of such genes, consulting a doctor about genetic counseling and testing can help. Here, your family history is examined and then the doctor will explain what type of testing can tell the presence of the inherited gene. Testing of blood or saliva samples is a common way of genetic testing.
Intake Prescriptive Medicine
Some prescription drugs, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, can lower the risk of breast cancer development. Tamoxifen can be an option for women who haven’t gone through menopause yet, while raloxifene is for post-menopausal use only. However, these medicines have side effects and might not work for every woman, so it is important to consult your doctor for a prescription.
Undergo Preventive Surgery
For women who have a very high risk of breast cancer, preventive surgery like a mastectomy can be an option for avoiding the development of the disease. A prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery where one or both breasts are removed to lower the chance of having breast cancer. Such an operation can lower the risk by 90% or more.
For women at increased breast cancer risk who don’t want to take medicine or have surgery, some doctors might recommend close observation. This includes more frequent doctor visits (such as every 6 to 12 months) for breast exams and ongoing risk assessment. It also helps to start yearly mammograms at an earlier age, and add other screening tests, such as breast MRI, later on. While this approach doesn’t lower breast cancer risk, it might help find it early, when it’s likely to be easier to treat.
The growing number of cases of breast cancer in the Philippines should be a reminder for Filipina women to create more informed lifestyle choices. Breast cancer chooses no one. This is most true for women as they age and experience menopause, which is a period that has the highest risk of developing the condition. However, regardless of age, it is important to follow these tips to live a healthier life. Being diagnosed with breast cancer might be unpredictable, it does not mean there is nothing that can be done to prevent that from happening.