Raising Awareness: Breast Cancer Facts, Prevention & Treatment
Help raise awareness during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this month-long campaign, thousands of breast cancer organizations and charities around the world strive to increase awareness of this disease, as well as build momentum to raise funds for research.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in American women. If you are a woman at average risk, there is a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. Fortunately, breast cancer death rates have dropped 39% from 1989 to 2015. Doctors believe this decrease in deaths has been the result of detecting breast cancer earlier through screening, increased awareness and better treatment options.
To do our part in spreading awareness during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the year, Personalized Hematology-Oncology shares these facts about this far too common disease.
Breast Cancer Prevention
There is no proven way to prevent breast cancer. However, there are things you can do to help reduce your risk for breast cancer, especially if you are at higher risk of developing the disease.
First, there are many risk factors for getting breast cancer that are out of your control. These include:
- Being a woman (men account for less than 1% of breast cancer cases)
- Certain inherited genes
- Family or personal history of breast cancer
- Having dense breast tissue
- Certain benign breast conditions
- Starting menstruation early
- Going through menopause after age 55
- Having radiation to your chest
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
Individuals do have some control over lifestyle-related risk factors, which include:
- Drinking alcohol
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- Not breastfeeding or having children
- Birth control
- Hormone therapy after menopause
In short, living an active lifestyle while maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption is the best way to lower the risk for breast cancer in the average woman.
For women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer due to family history and/or a gene mutation, several preventative measures may help lower the risk. Medications can sometimes be prescribed to reduce risk, and some women have opted for preventative surgery to remove breast tissue.
Breast Cancer Detection
Many women with breast cancer show no symptoms, which is why regular self-exams and mammograms are so important. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 45 to 54 with average risk for breast cancer should have a mammogram screening every year.
Mammograms help with early detection when breast cancer is at its beginning stages and when treatment is most successful. According to the American Cancer Society: “Results from many decades of research clearly show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early, are less likely to need aggressive treatment like surgery to remove the breast (mastectomy) and chemotherapy and are more likely to be cured.”
If a screening test indicates you might have breast cancer, a biopsy will be performed to find out if it is cancerous. Fortunately, most biopsy results are not cancer, but it is essential to know for sure.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If a biopsy confirms the cells are cancerous, doctors will then use the biopsy results or further testing to determine the exact type of cancer, the stage of cancer, and how fast it is growing.
During the diagnosis and prognosis period, it is important to ask your doctor whatever questions you may have. Survival rates are only estimates and vary by stage. You can gain the most knowledge about your specific breast cancer by openingly communicating with your doctor.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer treatments have come a long way in recent years. Treatment protocol varies by patient, type of cancer and stage of cancer. Your oncologists can discuss the benefits and risks associated with each approach.
Patients with breast cancer will often need to undergo some type of surgery during their treatment. Surgery could be performed for numerous reasons including:
- Mastectomy to remove as much of the cancer as possible
- To find out if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm
- Breast reconstruction to restore the breast shape after cancer is removed
- Relieve symptoms of advanced stage cancer
Depending on the cancer type, radiation may be used, sometimes in combination with other treatments. The use of radiation – high-energy rays that destroy cancer cells – depends on a variety of factors such as if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body and if the tumor is large or involves skin.
Chemotherapy is commonly used to attack cancer cells using drugs administered orally or through IV. Not all patients diagnosed with breast cancer will need chemotherapy, but many will. Chemotherapy may be used for these reasons:
- After surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells
- Before surgery to shrink the tumor so it can be removed with less extensive surgery
- Advanced stages when cancer has spread
Gene Expression Profiling
As doctors and researchers learn more about cancer cells, new treatments have been developed to treat each patient’s precise form of cancer. A gene expression profile analysis gives the patient and physician a “blueprint” of the tumor and helps determine which drugs have the capacity to prevent tumor growth. With this crucial insight, your oncologist can develop a customized treatment protocol – offering the right drug at the right time for each patient.
Genome science allows for optimal, safe and cost-effective chemotherapy to be administered, while ensuring the cancer patient is not under treated or over treated. Targeted genome therapy is a specialization only provided by leading oncologists.
Oncologist in Raleigh
Personalized Hematology-Oncology provides comprehensive oncology consultation for all types of cancer, including breast cancer. Our experienced oncologists specialize in chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapies and infusion administration. Contact us to learn more about our expertise in these cancer treatment areas.
To learn more about breast cancer, please visit cancer.org.