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Five Things Friday: Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence

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When it comes to breast cancer, gone doesn’t mean forgotten.

Studies show that at least half of all breast cancer survivors fear that the cancer will return. In some survivors, the fear can be overwhelming. It is understandable to be anxious about a disease that disrupts your life for many months. All that uncertainty, stress, and discomfort isn’t easily forgotten. But it is vital to remember that the overall five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90 percent! The odds are on your side! And Albie Aware is on your side, too! Please contact us with your concerns.

No matter how unlikely, recurrence is real and it is essential for survivors to continue checkups and watch for symptoms. And there are some specific things you can do to minimize your risk of recurrence. Here are five ways to lower the chances that your cancer will come back:

Diet – Yes!

Obesity is a known factor for breast cancer because of visceral fat cells and their relationship to inflammation. Visceral fat cells are large and numerous. They don’t carry much oxygen, and it is low oxygen that allows inflammation to occur.  Inflammation increases the risk of cancer.

Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your health in general. It’s especially important for breast cancer survivors. Mom was right – eat your fruits and vegetables! Whole grains, too! And limit or avoid red meats, processed meats, and refined sugar. Wash produce to eliminate pesticide residue.

Vitamin supplements are not usually recommended for cancer survivors. There may be cases where your doctor prescribes a specific vitamin, but in general supplements do not help and may actually have a negative effect.

2. Exercise – Yes!

Does exercise help prevent a recurrence of breast cancer? The correlation is not clear, but it is important for the general state of your health and to help keep your weight in check.

Another benefit of exercise is your mental health. It can combat the lingering fatigue associated with chemotherapy and help keep depression at bay. Any physical activity is better than none. If your only exercise is walking, keep at it.

3. Smoking – No!

While it is clear that smoking and vaping is harmful to everyone, it is especially detrimental to cancer patients and survivors, Smoking can interfere with healing after surgery, increase lung damage following radiation, and heighten the risk of blood clots if taking hormonal medications.

Research has shown that women who start smoking at a young age more than double their chances of getting a breast cancer diagnosis.

4. Alcohol – Limit It!

There is a link between alcohol and breast cancer. Women who have three drinks per week increase their risk of getting hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer by 15%, compared to women who do not drink at all. Alcohol may damage cell DNA and it increases the level of estrogen and other hormones.

There are a variety of “mocktails” – cocktails without alcohol that let you “drink” without increasing your risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.

5. Don’t Stress About It.

Yeah right! Stress is breast cancer’s middle name. So, stop stressing? Doubtful, but you can limit anxiety and worry. Remember, as we said above, the  survival rate for breast cancer is in your favor. 

And here’s where there is an overlap with exercise. It is a great way to reduce stress.

The website of Johns Hopkins Medicine Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center lists several techniques for reducing stress associated with breast cancer treatment and survivorship, including: Support Groups, Acupuncture, Journaling (writing about it can make it less fearsome), Counseling, Gardening, Massages, Yoga, Meditation, and more.

Take Your Life Back!

When you successfully make it through cancer treatment, you realize just how strong and resilient you are. Is recurrence a possibility? Yes, but your healthcare team, family, friends, and Albie Aware are still there for you. So, get out there and live your life to the fullest!

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