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Breast Cancer Prevention
Since there is no ONE cause of breast cancer, there is no easy preventative measure to apply to all women. Research has found that there are ways to minimize our risks of developing breast cancer and other forms of cancer connected with lifestyle choices and consistent breast screening.
Breast cancer prevention is being studied by several groups. At this time there is no proven breast cancer prevention protocol such as eating a specific diet or taking certain vitamins. However, there are some steps that can be taken to decrease the risk of developing cancer.
Personal habits such as avoiding alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active reduce the risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is associated with high-fat diets so a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in fatty meat or full-fat dairy, is a proactive way to improve overall health. The use of hormones to relieve menopausal symptoms is linked to breast cancer. Avoiding these hormones or using them as little as possible is recommended particularly after the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative found that hormone use increased the incidence of cancer.
Anti-hormone therapy is a tool now used to prevent recurring cancer, or the development of another primary cancer. The majority of breast cancers have estrogen receptors which respond to anti-hormone drugs such as Tamoxifen. These drugs block hormones which are known to assist cancer cells to grow or develop. Find more information about anti-hormone therapy here.
A more recent approach for women with a very high risk of developing cancer is a preventive mastectomy or double mastectomy. Carriers of the BRCA gene mutation have as high as an 80% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Women with a high incidence of breast cancer in their immediate family also are considering this option. With the advances that have been made in the field of breast reconstruction, the statistics are slightly up in terms of women who choose mastectomy over a lumpectomy. Many women opt to prevent cancer by removing the potential site of that cancer.
Watch as Dr. Leslie Memsic explains the risk factors for breast cancer and what every woman can do to help reduce those risk factors.
Breast Cancer Prevention Tips
Click on the below items to find out what can help you to lower your risks of developing breast cancer.
Identified Risk Factors
Breast cancer is associated with high-fat diets, alcoholic beverages, obesity, hormones and a sedentary lifestyle. Since we cannot yet alter our genetic makeup, we can concentrate on making behavioral choices that minimize our risk of developing breast cancer. Knowing your family history and being diligent if there is a history of breast (or other) cancer in the family is crucial to prevention and early detection.
Maintaining a sensible weight is crucial to cancer risk reduction. Everybody has a different number for their sensible weight. Supermodel weight is not sensible weight for the vast majority of people.
Weight gain is common as we age, have babies, and exercise less. Medical conditions such as arthritis can make exercising painful. Metabolism slows down with age which contributes of weight gain. Managing a healthy weight is crucial to preventing cancer and many other diseases. Develop a plan that suits your lifestyle that enables you to maintain a sensible weight range.
Diet is vitally important in minimizing obesity which results in less cancer and heart disease. A diet high in vegetables and fruits and lower in carbohydrates, fats and alcohol are good for preventing heart disease as well as cancer.
High fiber intake is associated with low blood levels of all biologically active hormones which may be helpful in breast cancer prevention. Since the majority of women die of heart disease and NOT cancer, developing healthy eating habits is mandatory to living a long, happy life. Portion control rather than depriving yourself of the foods you love is more likely to provide long term weight loss and stabilization. Everything in moderation!
Vitamin D has proven to be important in bone and breast health. It is frequently found that Vitamin D is low in populations, even those in sunny climates. Supplementation is often recommended to ensure that minimum daily requirements are met. Anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 may also contribute to cancer prevention.
As little as 90 minutes a week can lower breast cancer risk. Exercise can take any form you enjoy or that you can do. Housework burns calories as does dancing, running, cycling, hiking, swimming, walking, playing hide-and-seek or playing ball with your kids. Taking the stairs instead of an elevator, parking farther from the grocery store or office thereby forcing you to walk farther, will all increase your exercise in easy ways. Changing exercise habits in small ways will ultimately result in lifestyle changes that contribute to your health. You will see flattering improvements in your physique and exercise tolerance in addition to the long-term health benefits!
Minimizing stress is vital to a healthy body. This takes a thoughtful assessment of your lifestyle with the goal of making significant changes where you can. We all have stress we cannot eliminate, but some things can be eliminated or reduced. Carving some personal time to do whatever you like—read, exercise, sleep, dream, meditate, on a daily basis even if only for 10 or more minutes can reduce stress and restore our ability to meet our responsibilities in a more stress-free way.
The use of hormones pose a significant risk for breast cancer. In the post-menopausal period managing hormone intake is particularly important. Not every women needs hormones once they reach menopause; in fact more than 70 percent of women are not using hormones and are doing quite well.
Talk with your doctor about any menopausal symptoms you may be having including hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, etc., and consider nonhormonal methods to help alleviate the issues. Some women absolutely need hormones for a quality life but these women should use the lowest dose possible to obtain relief, for the shortest amount of time. Hormones should never be used in women with a personal history of breast cancer as their risk of recurrence is dramatically increased.
Alcohol definitely increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. One has to weigh this risk with studies that suggest that moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, may decrease the risk of heart disease. Moderation may be the key except in those women with multiple risk factors for breast cancer in which alcohol should be minimized or eliminated altogether.
Tobacco has also been implicated in increasing breast cancer risk and certainly has been proven to increase the development of multiple cancers as well as lung disease and heart disease. Cigarettes have been proven to be the biggest cause of preventable death in the world and should not be used, PERIOD.
Knowing your risk factors and making lifestyle changes to minimize the possibility of getting breast cancer is important. But it is not enough. Regular breast self-exam, combined with an annual clinical breast cancer screening is one of the most proactive things a woman can do. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Being alert to changes early will ensure that any cancer is detected at the earliest stage.
Check your breasts regularly by doing routine Breast Self-Exams so you know what they look and feel like normally. Then you will recognize something new like a lump, dimple or nipple discharge. Seek consultation with a physician and get checked out if you notice anything unusual. Most commonly these things are NOT cancer, but if cancer is found, it can be caught early and increase the likelihood of a cure.
All of us are at risk for breast cancer, but if you have family members with breast or other cancers, talk with your doctor. You may benefit from closer surveillance (more frequent exams, or imaging studies) or BRCA gene testing. Knowledge is power. Do not be afraid to ask your relatives about their health issues. Their health history is your history.
Breast exams by your physician or nurse practitioner on a yearly basis are important in addition to your self-exams in identifying abnormalities early.
IMAGING studies, such as a screening mammogram, complement breast exams done by yourself and your health professionals. Recent studies reported in the public press have been confusing, but current recommendations by the medical community include annual mammograms (digital if possible as they show things more clearly) at age 40.
ULTRASOUND is indicated if masses are identified on physical exam or mammogram and possibly in patients with high risk or dense breasts.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI) is probably our most accurate breast test but it is not used for screening in the average patient because it is not necessary and may lead to unnecessary breast biopsies.
However, in women at higher risk such as those with a personal or strong family history of breast cancer, carriers of BRCA gene mutation, or those women with extremely dense or cystic breasts, MRI may be indicated.
Certainly if mammogram and breast ultrasound are inconclusive with regards to a breast abnormality, MRI may be useful.
For more Information or to schedule an appointment contact Dr. Memsic at Bedford Breast Center Servicing Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and the greater Los Angeles area
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