Dr Maria E Zweig MD

 

The single most feared disease by women is breast cancer. We have heard the statistic; one in eight of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer during our lifetime, a very sobering statement, to say the least. During the month of October we try to create awareness to this disease, and the ongoing fight against Breast Cancer.

I try to approach every problem I face by thinking about preventing the situation and then how to best fight it and conquer it if I can’t avoid it.

 

How can YOU prevent Breast Cancer?

 

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      • Maintain a healthy weight. Being over weight is a risk factor.
      • Do not drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day.
      • Do 30 to 45 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week, more if you’re overweight.
      • Do not smoke.
      • Avoid or limit use of hormone replacement therapy, bio-identical or brand name drugs have the same risk.
      • Get tested for inheritable breast cancer gene mutations (BRCA 1 & BRCA 2) if you have more than two close family members in your family with breast and / or ovarian cancer.
        • New study shows Third Gene as Indicator of Breast Cancer – PALB2
      • Consider and talk to your doctor about pharmaceutical breast cancer prevention therapy if you are at a high-risk category.
        • Either by strong family history, previous biopsy result, or positive testing to a breast cancer gene mutation.

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There are two prescription drugs that are approved for women at high risk for breast cancer. They are a type of medication known as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERM). SERM’s and Aromatase Inhibitors trick your body into producing less estrogen, or the estrogen you do produce not to work on or stimulate the tissues of your breast.

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      • Raloxifene
      • Tamoxifen

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How can I fight breast cancer?

Early detection is the single most important factor that can help you fight Breast Cancer.

So, we need to be aware of our breast, don’t be afraid to touch and feel on a regular schedule. Including under your armpit and around your collarbone. Once a month if you’re menstruating, right after is a good time. If you don’t have menstrual period pick a date that’s convenient and get into a habit. In the shower with soapy hands seems to me like a good and easy way of doing it. You have to do it anyway, so just be more aware of any changes.

 

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      • Dimpling of the skin
      • Hard lumps
      • Discharge from your nipple
      • Changes in the skin around your areola (the darker part surrounding your nipple)

 

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I wish to stress that the majority of breast cancer patients do not have a positive family history or a specific reason for developing breast cancer. The main risk factor for developing breast cancer is being a woman.

 

Follow recommended guidelines for breast cancer detection:

 

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      • Start at 40 years old or 5 years younger than any immediate family member with the disease.
      • Continue during your 40’s yearly or every 2 years depending on risk factors – Dense breast on a mammogram is a risk factor.
      • In your 50’s, and beyond you continue yearly as long as you are enjoying good health.

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The screening test recommended is a mammogram, if you are a young woman or have dense breast consider doing a digital mammography. Additional testing depending on your exam may include:

 

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      • Breast Sonogram
      • Beast Tomography – a 3 D Mammogram
      • Breast MRI

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Diagnostic testing if screening cannot rule out cancer will then include some kind of radiological guided breast biopsy. These are usually no longer performed in the operating room but in your radiologist office with local anesthesia.

 

The take home message this month, as well as year round, is that fear although normal cannot paralyze us into not acting against this potentially fatal disease. You need to do lifestyle changes to prevent this disease, and not be afraid to seek help early if you think you may have a problem. Breast cancer survival is improving. We may not have a universal cure, but we are much better at early detection and treatment; as many breast cancer survivors can give testimony to.