Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Take proactive approach for prevention, control of breast cancer


Breast cancer has become one of the most common type of cancers among women in the United States – regardless of race and ethnicity.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African-American women are more likely to die from this disease than white women and are less likely to survive for five years after diagnosis.

This is due to African-American women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage and receiving treatment later after diagnosis.  The CDC states that in 2012 approximately  224,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with this disease and approximately 41,000 died.

Breast-cancer awareness is one of our nation’s most important public health promotion initiatives.  As a well-known adage states, “knowledge is power.” It is with increased awareness and education about this disease that women are being empowered to take proactive steps to practice better health and breast care. Research has shown that by taking preventative measures and becoming actively engaged, women are receiving positive breast health outcomes and lives are being saved.

Here are six proactive strategies that are recommended by the CDC, American Cancer Society, and other National Health Institutes to help in the prevention and the improved survival rates of breast cancer in women.

• Get regular breast screenings – Early detection through regular breast screening has been shown to be the best way to find breast cancer early and treat, improving survival rates. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women age 50 to 74 years old have mammograms every two years. If you have a family history, are at higher risk, or have signs and symptoms, consult with your physician.  They may recommend more frequent breast screenings or the start of screenings at an earlier age.

• Know the risk factors – Knowing the risk factors for breast cancer and working toward the reduction of the controllable factors is a smart and proactive approach in the prevention and control of this disease. Some of the known risk factors include: age, family history, long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), drinking alcohol, smoking, changes in the breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and night-shift work.

• Maintain a healthy weight – Research has shown that being overweight and obese leads to an increased production of estrogen and insulin, which increases the risk for getting breast cancer.  Maintaining a healthy weight is not a quick- fix fad.  Optimal success in maintaining a healthy weight is achieved by embracing healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and healthy eating.  Monitor your weight, BMI, and waist circumference to make sure that these stay within the healthy normal range.  A healthy BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9; a healthy waist circumference for a woman is less than not more than 35 inches; for a man less than not more than 40 inches.

•  Exercise regularly – Regular exercise has been shown to not only reduce the risk of getting breast cancer but also increase survival rates among those who are diagnosed with this disease. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination of both per week. Remember some exercise is better than none.  If you can’t do a 30-45 minute session, try three to four 10 minute bouts of exercise throughout the day to achieve your activity goal.  Stand up and move!  Limit your time spent sitting.  An American Cancer Society study showed that women who spent six hours or more a day sitting outside of work had a 10 percent greater risk for breast cancer than women who sat less than three hours a day.

•  Commit to healthy eating – Eating a well-balanced diet that includes lean poultry, fish, healthy fats, plenty of whole food plant-based fruits and vegetables daily has been shown to improve health and to decrease the risk of breast cancer. Limit the use of alcohol, refined processed foods, and sugary drinks.  Recent studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet rich in veggies, fruits, whole grains and extra-virgin olive oil may be linked to a reduced risk in breast cancer.

•  Get enough sleep – Most of us are not getting enough sleep.  Studies have shown that insufficient sleep is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases.  Try to get at least six to eight hours per night to improve health and reduce risk.

Take the proactive approach by doing everything you can to prevent and lower risk factors for this disease. Remember to communicate with your physician or medical healthcare provider for medical diagnosis, answers to questions and recommendations for breast cancer.

Vicki Haywood Doe PhD, ACSM-EP-C is the President and Health Fitness Director of Haywood Doe Consulting Co., LLC/Vicki Doe Fitness located in Niles, Ohio. For more information, visit

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