Breast cancer FAQ
The World Health Organization reports that roughly 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. By the end of that year, there were nearly eight million women alive who had been diagnosed with the disease in the previous half decade.
A breast cancer diagnosis inevitably leads to questions about the disease. The bulk of those questions undoubtedly are asked by the millions of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. But millions more individuals, including friends and family members of recently diagnosed women, may have their own questions. Women can discuss the specifics of their diagnosis with their physicians. In the meantime, the following are some frequently asked questions and answers that can help anyone better understand this potentially deadly disease.
What is breast cancer? Cancer is a disease marked by the abnormal growth of cells that invade healthy cells in the body. Breast cancer is a form of the disease that begins in the cells of the breast. The National Breast Cancer Foundation notes that the cancer can then invade surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body.
Can exercise help to reduce my breast cancer risk? The NBCF notes that exercise strengthens the immune system and women who commit to as little as three hours of physical activity per week can begin to reduce their risk for breast cancer. However, even routine exercise does not completely eliminate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Is there a link between diet and breast cancer? The organization Susan G. Komen¨, a nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer, reports that studies have shown eating fruits and vegetables may be linked to a lower risk for breast cancer, while consuming alcohol is linked to an increased risk for the disease. In addition, the NBCF reports that a high-fat diet increases breast cancer risk because fat triggers estrogen production that can fuel tumor growth.
Is there a link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer? The NBCF reports that women who have been using birth control pills for more than five years are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. However, the organization notes that risk is very small because modern birth control pills contain low amounts of hormones.
Can breastfeeding reduce breast cancer risk? Breastfeeding and breast cancer are linked, though the NBCF notes that the role breastfeeding plays in lowering cancer risk depends on how long a woman breastfeeds. The World Cancer Research Fund International notes that evidence indicates that the greater number of months women continue breastfeeding, the greater the protection they have against breast cancer.
Is there a connection between stress and breast cancer? The NBCF notes that researchers have found that traumatic events and losses can alter how the immune system functions, which can provide an opportunity for cancer cells to establish themselves within a person’s body. The NBCF urges women to identify ways to keep their stress levels in check.