How can I protect myself from breast cancer?

Follow these three steps for early detection:

  • Get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40. Mammograms are an important part of your health history. Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) came out with new recommendations regarding when and how often one should have mammograms. These include starting at age 50 and having them every two years. We do not agree with this, but we are in agreement with the American Cancer Society and have not changed our guidelines, which recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Examine your breasts each month after age 20. You will become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
  • Have your breast examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that may not be detected by mammogram.

Can exercise help reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?

Exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle. It can also be a useful way to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer in your postmenopausal years. Women often gain weight and body fat during menopause. People with higher amounts of body fat can be at a higher risk of breast cancer. However, by reducing your body fat through exercise, you may be able to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

The general recommendation for regular exercise is about 150 minutes each week. This would mean that you work out for about 30 minutes, five days each week. However, doubling the amount of weekly exercise to 300 minutes (60 minutes, five days each week) can greatly benefit postmenopausal women. The longer duration of exercise allows for you to burn more fat and improve your heart and lung function.

The type of exercise you do can vary — the main goal is get your heart rate up as you exercise. It’s recommended that your heart rate is raised about 65 to 75% of your maximum heart rate during exercise. You can figure out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your current age from 220. If you are 65, for example, your maximum heart rate is 155.

Aerobic exercise is a great way to improve your heart and lung function, as well as burn fat. Some aerobic exercises you can try include:

  • Walking.
  • Swimming.
  • Running.
  • Biking.
  • Dancing.
  • Hiking.

Pick an activity you enjoy and want to do over and over again. The more you like your activity, the more likely you’ll be to continue exercising day-after-day. You don’t have to do the same activity for all 300 minutes of your weekly exercise. You can mix it up and try different things throughout the week. The important thing is to keep moving.

Remember, there are many benefits to working more exercise into your weekly routine. Some benefits of aerobic exercise can include:

  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Increased endurance.
  • A lower resting heart rate.
  • Weight loss or maintenance of your current weight.
  • Stress relief.
  • Improved sleep.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new diet or exercise routine. It’s important to know if you have any limitations before you start exercising. Having an open and honest conversation about your exercise goals can help your provider guide you as you develop a fitness plan.

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