KEEPING ABREAST OF CANCER
There is no evidence of a direct link between breast cancer and breast implants, using antiperspirants or wearing underwire bras. Advice and knowledge on breast cancer health
Advice and knowledge on breast cancer health
HOW CAN I ASSESS MY RISK FOR BREAST
CANCER? Over the course of a lifetime, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. With regard to risk, there are certain factors that are simply out of your control. These include:
• AGE AND GENDER The risk increases if you are a woman and as you get older.
• FAMILY HISTORY OF BREAST CANCER You might also have a higher risk if you have a close relative who has had breast, ovarian or colon cancer.
• GENES Some people have genetic mutations that place them at higher risk. The most common are found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Those mutations are rare and not present in most women with breast cancer.
• MENSTRUAL CYCLE Women who got their periods before age 12 or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action. Healthy lifestyle changes might reduce your overall chance of getting cancer:
• LIMIT YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION. Even one alcoholic drink per day can slightly increase your risk.
• EAT A HEALTHFUL DIET. Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products, eat more fruits and vegetables, and limit processed foods and red meat.
• MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT. Obesity has
been linked to breast cancer.
DOES A DIAGNOSIS OF BREAST CANCER AUTOMATICALLY MEAN BREAST REMOVAL IS NECESSARY?
Facing a breast abnormality is one of the scariest moments in a person’s life. A diagnosis of breast cancer or any cause for concern might feel daunting. Before deciding whether surgery is right for you, you and your doctor should consider the following: the size and location of your tumor; how many tumors there are in the breast; how much of the breast is affected; the size of your breast; your age; your family history; your general health; and whether you have reached menopause. If it is decided that surgery is your best course of action, you may discuss various options, including lumpectomy (also called breast conservation therapy or partial mastectomy) where only the breast cancer and surrounding tissue are removed. Another option is mastectomy, which entails removing all the breast tissue. Mastectomy is a better choice if the area of cancer is too large to remove without deforming the breast. Advances and new research are ubiquitous when it comes to the care and treatment of breast cancer patients, so you should consider as much information as possible and discuss all options with your doctor.
I HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY OF BREAST CANCER. SHOULD I PROACTIVELY SEEK A MASTECTOMY BEFORE I EVEN RECEIVE A DIAGNOSIS?
You might be more likely to get breast cancer if one or more close family relatives has had it, especially at an early age. Genetic tests might help show that you have a high risk. Women who have a very high risk of developing breast cancer may choose to have a preventive (or prophylactic) mastectomy to reduce the future occurrence of breast cancer. That is not commonly performed if genetic tests are negative. Increasing your clinical breast exams and imaging might be important, so discuss with your clinician.
Prophylactic mastectomy should be done only after very thoughtful discussion with your doctor, a genetic counselor, and your family and loved ones. Mastectomy greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of breast cancer.
HOW CAN I PREVENT BREAST CANCER?
Early detection is still your best weapon. An estimated 7,000 women in New Jersey will discover sometime this year that they have breast cancer. However, there is tremendous hope: Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality by nearly one-third since 1990. And when detected early, it has a 98 percent cure rate. For those reasons, annual mammography is vital. The goal is to detect breast cancer early, when it is one centimeter or less, which is often before a patient can feel it. Studies show that a mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 70, especially for those older than 50.
DR. MICHELLE AZU, FACS
DIRECTOR, BREAST SURGERY, CHILTON HOSPITAL, POMPTON PLAINS