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Reducing your Risk for Breast Cancer

As a brand, PajamaSutra is focused on self-care. That's truly the essence of what "Lounge like a Goddess" means, and what drives the ethos of the brand as a whole.

We take this concept of self-care a little further each October when we discuss breast cancer awareness, but this year it feels a just little different. After recently discovering my own elevated genetic risk for breast cancer, I had a lot of questions, and learned that there is so much we can do to take control of our wellness, genetics or not. Self-care isn't just a trendy buzzword; it really is about self-empowerment. I've realized that, for the most part, I am in control of how this turns out. I am armed with the knowledge that I didn't have a month ago, and a sense of gratitude that I know my risk and can now do something about it.


My goal is to share that sense of empowerment with as many women as I can, and have asked a few friends to help with this. The first is Dr. Reema Batra, a medical oncologist with a practice in San Diego, sharing her thoughts on screening, diet, and lifestyle. Be sure to consult your own doctor with any questions you may have about your health, as this is for informational purposes only. 

 


- Sarena Udani, Founder, PajamaSutra


Sarena Udani



Guest Post by Dr. Reema Batra

"Most of my patients tend to be breast cancer patients. While breast cancer usually affects women after the age of 50, we are seeing it in younger and younger women. One of my youngest patients was in her 20's! I want to share with you some tips that are important to remember, not just every October, but year-round.


Screening

The best way to screen for breast cancer based on clinical studies is a mammogram. This is a tried and true method and we have learned over the years that doing an annual screening mammogram leads to early detection of cancers and therefore more cures!

The usual time to start doing mammograms is age 40, as per the recommendation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Some women are doing them earlier and this is because they may have a family history or a symptom that warrants imaging. If I meet a patient who has a strong family history of breast cancer, I will recommend that they start screening either at age 40 OR 5 years earlier than when the youngest family member was diagnosed. For example, if your mom was diagnosed at age 40, then you should start screening at age 35. It is really important to share your family history of cancer (and other diseases) with your primary doctor so that they are aware of what you may be at risk for.


Self-Exams

Many people ask me about breast self exams. Although in clinical trials this has not been proven to be an effective screening method to catch early cancers, I have seen many patients who found a "lump" by doing their own exams. There are many ways to do a breast self exam. I suggest doing it monthly, around the same time of the month. Start with doing a visual inspection, to make sure there is no new dimpling or new asymmetry. Then, either when lying down or while standing, use the pads of your fingers to inspect the breast. I usually will go in a clockwise rotation from the outer part of the breast, into the center. Always squeeze the nipple gently to see if there is discharge.

If you notice something new on your exam, immediately notify your physician, even if you had a normal mammogram that same year! It is important to keep in mind that a breast self exam does not replace a mammogram.


Men and Breast Cancer

One thing that many people are not aware of is that men can get breast cancer too! Although it is more rare, we do see it from time to time. The risk factors for men can be a hereditary condition (such as the BRCA gene), age over 60, and obesity. If you know a man that may be concerned about this, certainly urge him to see his physician for the proper work up. Male breast cancer can also be cured if caught early!


Lowering Your Risk

One of the things I get asked often is how to lower the risk of breast cancer. There are some things we can't change, such as our family genetics or growing older. But the things that we can control can help reduce our risk. 

There is a lot of noise on what diet is the best to prevent cancer. Personally, I believe in moderation for everything. I think it is important to steer clear of processed foods and food/drinks that have high fructose corn syrup. But overall, a diet that is well-balanced is usually easy to maintain for long term success! As an example, I like to stick to a plant based diet during the week, and on the weekends I will splurge a little and enjoy some of my favorite foods, such as cheese.


Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer as well. If you aren't already, be sure to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, 3 times a week. I find that doing classes or pairing up with a friend is the best way to be held accountable!

Recently, alcohol was also shown to lead to cancer, even if it's just one drink a day. Again, I use the moderation rule in this case! Red wine does have a lot of other health benefits so I do try to stick to that if I am going to drink alcohol. 

As far as using natural products vs. chemically based products such as deodorant, from a medical perspective there has been no proven link between products like these and cancer. But I suggest that if you feel better about using all natural products, and they work, then go for it!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I love this time of year because as an oncologist, I think it is so wonderful to see the focus on this disease and getting the information out there to people. The best way to increase our survivors is by early detection and intervention! Education is key to getting the message out to everyone. Personally, I try to stick to the principles of moderation and self care to maintain my overall health. As a physician, mom to twins, and entrepreneur, I am never not busy! But I take the time to exercise, spend time outside, and laugh with my girlfriends. It's important to take care of YOU!"

- Dr Reema Batra, MD


Dr. Reema Batra

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