Some days ago, I read a series of interviews of breast cancer survivors, and I was elated that they lived to tell their stories. Even though the risk of recurrence was at the back of their minds, they were very much lively people.
Two things I took away from reading that piece was that, even with the heart-breaking stats about breast cancer survival, a lot of women are surviving, which is a big deal, and secondly, breast cancer is not a respecter of anybody, social standing, education or whatever criteria may come to mind. It can afflict anyone. May it not afflict us though! Amen.
Even though the root cause of cancer has not been discovered, there is a lot of active research going on, trying to find a cure, and there are also those which are being done to forestall a reoccurrence of the disease.
While speaking with an oncologist recently, she mentioned that there is nothing one can do or not do to prevent cancer. She also admits that taking better care of our bodies can go a long way in preventing cancer and its recurrence. And that’s what we will be dwelling on in today’s article… how to prevent a reccurence of breast cancer.
Get some exercise in:
The benefits of exercise in human health cannot be overestimated. It helps a lot, and scientists have realised that vigorous physical activity helps to wade off the recurrence of breast cancer. It is thought (because research is still ongoing) that exercise lowers inflammation, helps maintain body weight, boosts the immune system and levels of hormones linked with recurrence of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, not all breast cancer survivors stick to the 2 ½ minimum hours they are advised to use for vigorous physical activity per week.
Take medication as recommended:
This step is the basic help a breast cancer survivor can give herself. It is essential that all prescribed medications are taken when due.
Under no circumstance should medication be stopped, just because there is relief without adequate redress with your oncologist. Yes, these medications come with side effects and all, but they also provide the body with the hormones it needs to suppress the activities of cancerous cells.
Multiple studies, including a 2016 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, have shown anti-estrogen agents and aromatase inhibitors can block breast cancer from coming back. Being compliant with taking medication as prescribed reduces a woman’s risk of suffering a recurrence is reduced to the barest minimum.
Try intermittent fasting:
Recent studies have shown that intermittent fasting reduces the risk of a woman developing breast cancer again. One of those studies is a 2016 study which was published in JAMA Oncology.
It discovered that breast cancer patients who fasted for 13 hours or more each day enjoyed a significant drop in recurrence risk, when compared to women who didn’t fast at all.
The easy part is, it isn’t the fasting you are thinking about right now. Basically, you put 13 hours or more between your last bite of food at night and your first in the morning. That means, you stop eating by 8pm and you can have breakfast the next morning at 9 and still meet the study’s fasting requirements.
You can also adjust the timing to suit you, as long as it lasts for 13 hours every day.
Drink green tea
After reading so much about the benefits of green tea over the year, I bought a pack of the stuff recently and I have been drinking it since then. One thing I notice was that it hardly made me hungry.
While green tea slowed down hunger pangs, research has shown that women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer who drink a lot of green tea—three or more cups a day—seem to be better protected against a recurrence than those who don’t drink green tea at all.
Follow up care:
The worst part of being a breast cancer survivor is always the fear lurking somewhere at the back their minds of the possibility of a recurrence. It can hold some survivors back from fully enjoying life, it can also be the license some survivors need to truly live life to the hilt, after all, they are not promised tomorrow.
A proactive approach to ensuring breast cancer doesn’t reoccur is to make sure you stay the course of your follow up treatment. After the cancer has gone into remission, you will need to still be seeing your oncologist, until such a time a regular physician can start seeing you.
During all of these times, it is essential that you stick to the plan. According to Susan G Komen a breast cancer awareness site, the goals of follow-up visits are to:
- Find breast cancer that has returned to the breast, chest or nearby lymph nodes (local recurrence).
- Find breast cancer that has returned and spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
- Manage problems you are having taking medication (such as hormone therapy).
- Manage side effects related to treatment (such as menopausal symptoms).
- Discuss ways to help lower your risk of breast cancer recurrence (such as maintaining a healthy weight).
- Monitor for signs of lymphedema.
- Check for changes in your family history and refer to genetic counseling if appropriate.
- Provide other routine health screenings (such as screening for colon and skin cancers, bone density tests and for women, pelvic exams and Pap smears).
- Provide ongoing primary care (monitoring your general health, such as checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk factors for heart disease) and manage other medical problems you may have.
- Provide medical updates that might change your follow-up care.
- Provide resources, information and sometimes medications to manage worries, anxiety or depression.
- Provide emotional support.
- Give you a time to ask questions and share concerns.
All of the ways mentioned in this article, though mostly speculative, can go a long way in ensuring that a woman doesn’t have to deal with the pains of breast cancer more than once in her lifetime.
All breast cancer survivors are warriors.
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