Breast cancer, or simply uncontrolled growth of abnormal breast cells, is one of the leading causes of death in women. It is estimated that each year more than 220,000 women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. Being apprised of risk factors, self-examination methods, preventative measures, and learning how breast cancer can work, will help women be more prepared.
Q: Does physical activity help decrease my risk of getting breast cancer?
A: Yes! Not only does exercise help maintain weight (obesity does increase the risk of breast cancer), but it also helps keep your immune system strong. Try exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day.
Q: What are some risk factors of breast cancer?
A: There are many factors that may contribute to an increased chance of getting breast cancer. Being a smoker, overweight, participating in hormone replacement therapies, taking oral contraceptives or birth control pills for more than five years, eating a high-fat diet, and consuming high amounts of alcohol can all possibly contribute to an increased risk.
Q: How should I go about performing a self breast exam?
A: It is recommended that women perform an exam on themselves once a month. While doing so, pay special attention to noticing any visual or physical changes. Look for changes in color (if there is darkening or reddening of the breast), feel for lumps, observe if there are any secretions, or if there is scaly appearance of the skin.
Q: What is a mammogram?
A: A mammogram is a screening and diagnostic method of taking a picture of the breast tissue. By taking an image of the breast, the doctor can identify if there are any suspicious looking areas that may need further investigation. Typically, at age forty, it is recommended that women get their first mammogram if they have no family history of breast cancer. In a case with family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend you come in earlier for your first mammogram.
Q: Once I am diagnosed, what treatment methods are available?
A: Depending on your type of breast cancer, your doctor may want to take a different route. The basic types of treatments include: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapies. Hormonal therapy includes trying to lower the amount of estrogen in the body, and changing the way estrogen can affect breast cells. Targeted therapies aim directly at the cancer cells. You and your doctor may choose to use more than one method of treatment, as is appropriate for you.
For more information on breast cancer, visit: http://www.breastcancer.org/