6 Tips for Supporting Breast Health After 40
Breast health is an essential part of overall health, and as we age our breasts change and our risk of cancer increases. Cancer is caused by a mutation in the DNA within a cell, creating an abnormal cell that then divides to create more abnormal cells. With increased age comes increased opportunity for healthy cells to divide incorrectly, creating a cancerous cell. Here are 6 tips for supporting breast health after 40.
1. Regular Checkups/Mammograms
Typically, mammograms start at age 40, but talk with your doctor if you are at an increased risk and would benefit from preventative screening earlier. Mammograms are a preventative and noninvasive way to check your breast health.
Perform self-exams once per month at the same time each month. The breast tissue naturally goes through changes throughout the monthly cycle. Checking at the same time each cycle should yield similar results month to month. Complete self-exams lying down in a comfortable position to allow the pec musculature to relax to feel the breast tissue beneath the muscles. Perform small circles around the breast tissue and up into the armpits, feeling for any lumps. Further, standing in front of a mirror look for any asymmetries side to side. You can raise your arms to look into the armpits and bend forward to let the breast tissue hang. With visual inspection, look for any lumps, dimples, discharge, color changes, nipple inversion, or asymmetries side to side.
3. Stay physically active
Exercise is known to prevent cancer and re-occurrence of cancer. If currently undergoing breast cancer treatment, staying physically active can prevent a decline in strength and endurance to help maintain your quality of life and do the things you enjoy doing. See a Physical Therapist if you’re struggling with weakness, poor endurance, or pain with exercising or daily activities.
4. Healthy diet
Maintaining a balanced diet can prevent obesity, which in turn lowers the risk of cancer or re-occurrence of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer specifically, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and more.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in preventing breast cancer. Vitamin D is found in sunlight and fortified foods, but be sure to take supplemental Vitamin D during the winter months when not naturally exposing yourself to as much Vitamin D.
On top of this, avoid smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol, as both put you at an increased risk of cancer
6. How Physical Therapy Can Help
Post-radiation, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, or other procedures to the breast tissue can cause scar tissue. This scar tissue can cause restriction in mobility, resulting in decreased range of motion and/or pain in the shoulder and shoulder blade, neck, back, and other surrounding structures. Physical Therapy can help with scar tissue mobility with gentle massage work, stretching of the tissues, and range of motion exercises. Further, cancer and cancer treatment can cause generalized atrophy of muscles, fatigue, and impact endurance and strength. A Physical Therapist can assist in your recovery to regain strength with a safe progression of exercises to help you get back to doing the things you love.
If you have breast health related questions, reach out to our Freedom PT Women’s Health PT team.