First For Women
SOS for confusion on cancer screening
Expert answers to your most intimate health questions
My 56-year-old brother was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his doctor suggested he and the rest of our family consider being tested for BRCA genetic mutations. I thought these mutations only affected women, so I’m confused. What does my brother’s prostate cancer have to do with me?
Your confusion is understandable since the only thing most of us hear about BRCA 1 and 2 mutations is that they can increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers. But men carry these genes too, and BRCA 2 mutations are linked with early-onset prostate cancer. Since your brother is relatively young, I’m guessing his doctor suspects that he may have a BRCA mutation—and that means other family members could have one as well.
But before your whole family schedules tests, I suggest your brother be tested. Then, if his results indicate he has the BRCA mutation, you can speak to your doctor or a genetic counselor about the pros and cons of getting the testing for you. One thing I don’t recommend? At-home genetic testing offered by the services that identify your ancestry based on DNA. These self-tests only identify a few of the many BRCA mutations and may not provide the specific information you need.
The good news? No matter what your genes say, lifestyle strategies can help reduce your cancer risk. For example, Canadian researchers have found that moving your body for 30 minutes every day (even broken up into smaller segments that add up to 30 minutes) can significantly reduce your chance of developing breast cancer—and postmenopausal women see the biggest cancer protection benefit from exercise.
Crankiness before my period has turned into rage, and I snap at my family for no reason. I’m
It’s likely you’re in perimenopause, which means wildly fluctuating hormone levels can destabilize your moods. For 70% of women, irritability is the most common symptom, and many report feeling sudden bursts of rage that come out of nowhere.
When anger hits, try 4-7-8 breathing, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system to slow heart rate and promote calm. In fact, research in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that the technique calmed rage in minutes. Plus, it can be done whenever you feel anger or frustration rising. To do: Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight; repeat three times. Once your hormone levels stabilize after menopause, your moods should too.