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

45. Help!

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.

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