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NEW YORK (CBS) ― Doctors can’t explain why some women get breast cancer and others don’t.
But all women can reduce their risk.
While there is no cure or any way to completely avoid getting the disease, there are some simple ways to take action and improve your odds.
“I was young. I was healthy. I was exercising and I didn’t think anything was going to come back positive,” breast cancer survivor Vanessa Silva said.
Silva was shocked when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32.
“It had already spread to one lymph node, which is very rare,” she said.
After surgery and chemotherapy, Silva is cancer free. Now she’s doing everything she can to avoid a recurrence of the disease.
“Even if I feel kind of a pain or something I usually call the doctor and they reassure me, you’re fine,” Silva said.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to control our genetic risk for breast cancer but that’s just one part of the equation. Lifestyle factors also play a huge role in whether or not a woman will get the disease. Exercise for instance has been shown to lower the risk by 30 percent.
The American Cancer Society recommends getting in at least a half hour of exercise a day to improve your odds.
There is a strong link between obesity and developing breast cancer so maintaining a healthy weight is crucial.
Eat a low-fat, heart-healthy diet. Choose lean meats, high-fiber foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“When you look at your plate try to make it a rainbow. There should be lots of colors — green leafy vegetables, orange for beta carotene, red for the tomatoes. You should really try to have lots of vegetables with lots of color,” said Dr. Laurie Kirstein.
Limiting alcohol is another smart and straightforward choice.
“It sort of revs up production in your liver of precursors of estrogen, so we worry about people who drink more than one glass of alcohol a day,” Dr. Kirstein said.
Finally, be vigilant about getting mammograms and trust your instincts.
“Each person should know their body, should know if they feel something go and see the doctor,” Silva said.
“Don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. Don’t think, ‘Oh, it’s going to go away.’”
Early detection can save your life.
Some women eat organic foods to limit their exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. But so far, there’s no proof eating organics can lower your risk of getting breast cancer.
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