Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women. The good news is there are ways you can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and increase your chances of catching it early.
Every year, more than 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And it’s not just women who are affected. Several thousand men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year as well. For many, the disease seems to come out of the blue. Men and women go from a normal life to one filled with doctors, treatments and, oftentimes, surgery.
The good news is that if the disease is caught when the cancerous cells are just in the breast and haven’t spread anywhere, the cure rate is 99%. This means prevention and early detection are the keys to beating this disease. Simple life changes may keep you from developing breast cancer, or, may help you catch the disease before it spreads into other parts of your body. If you have breast cancer or want to learn how to prevent it, contact Dr. Amy Bruner.
1. Check your breasts
If you’re under age 40, note what your breasts look like and periodically check for any changes. If you’re over age 40 and have a family history of breast cancer or a personal history of other cancers, talk to Dr. Bruner about getting a mammogram. All women over age 50 should get yearly mammograms.
2. Know your risk
While it’s true that a family history of breast cancer can raise your risk of getting it, it isn’t the only risk factor. The biggest risk factor for getting breast cancer is being a woman. Women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
Taking birth control while smoking, undergoing postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, receiving radiation on your chest or neck, and taking certain drugs can all add to your risk of developing breast cancer.
3. Take a blood or saliva test
Blood and saliva tests can show if your body has certain gene mutations that can heighten your risk for developing breast cancer. If tests show your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have mutated, you may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. These mutations may show up even if you have no family history of breast cancer.
There is significant data to show that women who breastfeed for at least a year have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Studies suggest that pregnancy and breastfeeding can reduce the number of menstrual cycles a woman has. This, in turn, can reduce the number of times a woman’s breast tissue is exposed to potentially cancer-causing hormones.
5. Lose weight
Losing weight can help you stay ahead of breast cancer in two ways. First, fat cells make estrogen. So the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you may be feeding to potentially cancerous cells. Second, if you carry extra fat in your breasts, this may make home breast exams difficult and could cause you to miss early warning signs.
6. Stop smoking
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. But if you are already a smoker, quitting will reduce your risk of getting breast and lung cancer.
7. Eat healthy
A healthy diet does more than just keep your weight down. Fruits and vegetables support your immune system, keeping it strong and active. A strong immune system is always on alert, ready to fight precancerous cells before they develop into cancer.
Exercise helps to keep weight down, support a healthy immune system, and reduce blood sugar. This, in turn, can help reduce the amount of insulin your body needs to produce and circulate. Cancer cells can use insulin to grow, so keeping insulin levels low can starve cancer cells.
If you’re not sure where to start, talk with Dr. Bruner about your risk factors and how you can stay healthy. With just a few lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer and increase your chances of catching it early.
The uncomfortable, life-disturbing symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and moodiness, can make some women’s lives unbearable. If you’re frustrated with menopause and want your life back to normal, consider hormone replacement therapy.
As you move toward menopause, you may consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease your symptoms. But hormone therapy isn’t the right treatment for every woman experiencing this life change. Dr. Amy Bruner helps you weigh the pros and cons when determining whether hormone replacement therapy is the treatment for you.
Why hormone therapy?
During perimenopause, changes in your estrogen and progesterone levels cause many of the uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms include night sweats, hot flashes, irregular periods, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. These symptoms may last five or more years, seriously affecting your quality of life.
Hormone therapy can help balance out your hormones so these symptoms ease. Hormone therapy usually involves estrogen, progesterone, and sometimes testosterone.
When should I consider hormone therapy?
Some lucky women glide through menopause easily. Other women, though, find the hormone fluctuations and resulting symptoms seriously affect their quality of life. If your menopause symptoms are affecting work, your self-esteem, your relationships, and your mental health, hormone therapy should be a consideration.
What are the benefits of hormone therapy?
Hormone therapy applied orally, as time-released pellets under the skin, as a patch, or as a cream can help relieve your menopausal symptoms. With hormone therapy, hot flashes and night sweats occur less often and may even disappear over time. Hormone therapy can help you sleep better, lubricate your vagina, relieve anxiety, and reduce moodiness and irritability.
If your major concerns with menopause are issues such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and urinary incontinence, hormone therapy may not be the initially recommended therapy to address these health issues. Dr. Bruner can offer other other medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes to help with these health concerns.
Are there risks to hormone therapy?
Some women are not good candidates for hormone therapy. Dr. Bruner can help you understand if it’s a good option for you, depending on your medical history and age.
For example, if you have a history of blood clots, estrogen replacement therapy is not recommended. Even if you’ve never had a blood clot, estrogen can increase your risk of developing blood clots, but certain types of hormone therapy — specifically patches, vaginal creams, and rings — are not as likely to increase this risk.
If you have a history of cancer, especially breast or uterine cancer, estrogen therapy is also not a good idea. Estrogen replacement therapy can raise your risk of developing these diseases.
Dr. Bruner can help you understand what combinations of hormones contribute to an increased risk of breast and uterine cancer. For example, taking synthetic estrogen and progesterone together for more than three to five years may increase your risk of breast cancer, while taking estrogen alone can increase your risk of endometrial cancer.
What about heart disease?
Hormone therapy might be right for you if you’re younger than 60 or started menopause less than 10 years ago because it generally doesn’t increase your heart disease risk at these times. In older women, hormone therapy can increase your risk of developing heart disease. You’re not a candidate for hormone therapy if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke in the past.
If you’re still uncertain about whether hormone replacement therapy is for you, consult with Dr. Bruner. She can offer a comprehensive picture of the benefits hormone replacement provides and the risks involved.