October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month for Breast Cancer Prevention, Treatment, and Early Diagnosis. I walk in the Susan G Komen breast cancer walk in Dallas every year in October. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I feel very strongly about making all efforts to increase awareness and to help women get access to affordable screening.
What is Breast Cancer?
Abnormal cancerous tissue in breast. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in women in the United States and the second most common cause of cancer related death in women. It is the number one cause of cancer related death in women worldwide. It affects 1 out of every 8 women in their lifetime in the US. It does affect men but it is rare.
Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the breast that is cancerous. The most common type of female breast cancer begins in the milk ducts and is called ductal carcinoma. Cancer can start anywhere in the breast and can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body, like the brain, liver, lung and bones. It typically begins as a painless lump. It can also be associated with skin changes, nipple inversion, nipple drainage and changes in breast size and shape.
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
The UPSTF recommends that women at low risk get screening mammograms every other year after 50. They recommend that women discuss screening at age 40-49 with their doctor. American cancer society recommends starting at age 45 and getting yearly mammograms. At age 55 decreasing to every other year, and for women at age 40 can start yearly if interested. American College of Radiology recommends yearly mammograms at 40 years of age. For women that have family histories of breast cancer they all recommend starting earlier. If you have a palpable lump your doctor will get a diagnostic mammogram and sometimes an ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate the mass. If it is suspicious they will biopsy the breast and get a tissue sample to evaluate by microscopy for cancer cells.
Top 14 Breast Cancer Risk Factors:
- Age older than 55
- Taller, over 5ft 9 inches
- Nulliparity (never had children)
- Family history of breast cancer
- Having the BRCA1, BRCA2, p53, ATM, or PTEN gene
- Personal history of radiation
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Obesity in postmenopausal women
- Early menstrual periods, before age 12
- Late pregnancy, 1st pregnancy after age 35
- Hormone therapy
- Drinking more than 1 alcoholic beverage per day
- Dense breast tissue on mammogram
Best Breast Cancer Prevention or To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk:
- Breastfeed your children
- Stay physically active- regular aerobic exercise and stress reduction through yoga and meditation
- Avoid daily alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Eat a Mediterranean diet – fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and extra virgin olive oil
How to Prevent Breast Cancer Through Early Detection, Mammograms, and Endocrine Therapy
Early detection is important to improve outcomes and improve the survival rate. I recommend monthly self- breast exams. I encourage women to see their doctor if they identify a new lump or feel changes in their breast. It is also important to know your risk and identify if you need to start earlier mammogram screening. Women at very high risk for breast cancer can take endocrine therapy with medicine like Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer. Women at highest risk with an inherited mutation like BRCA 1 or 2 can consider prophylactic mastectomy. The survival rate has steadily improved in the last decade thanks to new treatments and earlier detection.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month for Breast Cancer Prevention, Treatment, and Early Diagnosis.
I encourage all women to support breast cancer research. Breast cancer prevention is an important part of everyone’s life.This disease will more than likely effect you or someone you love in your lifetime.
Health and Happiness!!
-Dr. Victoria Smithers, family physician, is an inspirational speaker and blogger on stress management and many wellness topics. She is booking now for medical and Christian conferences, keynotes, retreats, and workshops. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability and to get a price quote for your next meeting.