Simple Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
• Limit alcohol. Limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
• Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer, especially later in life and after menopause.
• Physical activity. Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking or swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running), in addition to strength training exercises at least twice a week.
• Breast-feed. Breast-feeding may also play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
• Discontinue hormone therapy. Long-term combination hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, consider using the lowest dose that’s effective for your symptoms, and plan to use it only temporarily.
• Avoid environmental pollution. While further studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust and air pollution.
Source: Mayo Clinic
All this month we’re looking at all aspects in the fight against of breast cancer. Today, we bring you information and advice straight from the doctors and medical personnel who work together as a team to treat and advise women facing this life changing disease.
Sandra Helms, RT, Lead technologist for mammography in the Women’s Diagnostic Center at Rockdale Medical Center
Sandra Helms wants to dispel one myth about mammograms:
“For most women, it’s uncomfortable but not painful,” she said. “First thing I tell patients, ‘Take everything everyone’s ever told you about having your mammogram and see for yourself.’ Most of them say ‘It’s not as bad as I heard.’”
She said other reasons she’s heard that women don’t get a mammogram? Financial reasons or lack of insurance, or fear.
“Some women that are in denial if they do find something. Most of the time it ends up not being breast cancer. But it’s that general fear, ‘Oh my God I may have something.’”
Getting mammograms regularly from an early age allows doctors to, “establish what your breast tissue looks like. In future studies, we can look to see are there any changes in the breast.”
Dr. Kevin Peacock, MD, medical oncologist with Georgia Cancer Specialists
Dr. Kevin Peacock also emphasizes the importance of early detection.
“Women who don’t routinely have mammograms, when their cancer is found, it’s at a much more advanced stage. When a cancer is detected at an early stage, it’s much more easily cured,” he said.
Chemotherapy and hormone treatment plays a critical role in treating cancer and breast cancer.
“Even after the patient’s had surgery, there’s a significant chance there’s still cancer cells in the body,” said Peacock. “By the time we can see a cancer, it represents a billion cancer cells. The purpose is to wipe out any cancer cells that may have remained in the body.”
Oncologists have come a long way in managing side effects of chemotherapy, said Peacock. But patients have to keep in mind despite the wear and tear on the body, the goal of chemotherapy is to save the patient’s life.
“The breast cancer chemotherapy, usually lasts three months. But the benefits (of treatment) are life-long.”
He also recommends women avoid hormone treatments after menopause if possible, due to the research with the connection between estrogen and breast cancer.
“I would recommend something like Black cohosh, Effexor before recommending hormone replacement therapy,” for menopause, he said.
Dr. Leslie Holmes, radiation oncologist with Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia
Radiation works in conjunction with mastectomies or lumpectomies to help preserve a patient’s quality of life with the same result as a more radical mastectomy.
“The purpose of giving radiation is to decrease the chance of reoccurrence,” of cancer in the treated area.
“The surgeons were trying to get away from doing the morbid mastectomies; they were taking off muscle and ribs and lymph nodes.”
“A lumpectomy followed by radiation is equivalent (in risk and outcome) to a mastectomy. The quality of life of the patient is better by trying to conserve their breast,” she said.
“The cancer cells can’t repair the radiation damage. Normal cells can repair the radiation damage. But you don’t want to over-radiate the normal tissue because you put them at risk of toxicity or injury.
Some myths patients have about radiation?
“Radiation doesn’t burn you. You won’t glow. You can be around loved ones and children.”
If a patient discovers a lump or a change in their breast tissue, she recommends they “find out exactly what that thing is even if it isn’t bothering them. Most breast cancers aren’t painful. Most breast cancers don’t have a lump or a nodule.”
Dr. Nour Abboushi, and Dr. Kimberly Singh, reconstructive surgeons with Paces Plastic Surgery
Rockdale’s newest plastic surgeons, Dr. Nour Abboushi and Dr. Kimberly Singh, said their work for breast cancer patients is all about preserving the quality of life.
Reconstructive surgeons work hand in hand with oncology surgeons. Often, the reconstructive surgery will be done at the same time as the mastectomy or lumpectomy.
“If you’re doing it in a delayed fashion, you’re dealing with scaring, you’re dealing with breast tissues that have already healed,” said Abboushi. “It’s better to use the skin envelope as part of that reconstruction. We’ll try and reconstruct a breast to as close as what they had before.”
Sometimes, the patient will need to do the surgery at a later time and will instead have a temporary procedure done.
The surgeons place a tissue expander, “a balloon-like implant that holds over through the radiation without affecting radiation. Once they’re done, we’ll offer the final stages of reconstruction.”
Along with implants, another technique for reconstruction is to use the patient’s own tissues, including muscle and fat from other places in the body such as the back or abdomen, for recreating the breast.
The decision is ultimately up to the patient. Singh said, “I think the biggest misconception is women of a certain age, at that stage in their life, may not feel as though they need reconstruction. Because they’re older or have children or be grandmothers,” she said. “Reconstruction is for everyone. There’s certainly no age limitation for reconstruction.”
Abboushi said “We want people to start thinking of the next step. Start thinking of their future as far as recovering from this disease.”