How can you prevent breast cancer?
Although there is no way to prevent breast cancer, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with routine exercise, 20 to 30 minutes three to five times a week, decreases cancer risk. We recommend that patients stay close to their ideal body weight. Obesity after menopause is associated with diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, and increases the risk of breast, uterine, and other cancers.
Since prevention is not a fail-safe plan, how can you detect breast cancer early?
Mammography continues to be the best screening tool for breast cancer detection. If a woman has dense breasts, ultrasound will improve the ability to find small tumors. A yearly clinical breast exam by a healthcare provider can help identify masses or skin changes that are not found with breast imaging.
What makes early detection so important?
The earlier a breast cancer is detected, the less chance it has to spread to other organs. If a cancer is found at an early stage, we have a better chance of curing it.
How is early breast cancer treated?
Early breast cancer is usually treated with lumpectomy (removal of the tumor) and sentinel lymph node biopsy (a surgical procedure used to determine if cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into your lymphatic system). This operation is usually followed by radiation and antiestrogen therapy for “estrogen receptor positive breast cancers” (80%). (“Estrogen receptor positive” is a type of breast cancer that is sensitive to estrogen and may respond to hormone therapy.)
What steps should survivors take to prevent a recurrence?
While we never want patients to feel responsible when their cancers come back, or recur, we encourage survivors to maintain the same healthy lifestyle that we recommend to decrease breast cancer risk in the first place. This includes regular exercise, eating a healthy diet low in refined foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, and maintaining an ideal body weight. We recommend limited alcohol intake of less than five drinks a week. For patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, we have evidence that 10 rather than five years of antiestrogen therapy will decrease cancer recurrence risk.
Dr. Zoe Weinstein is a surgeon with HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston. In practice for more than 20 years, she earned her medical degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus
A member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth)
105 Mary’s Avenue
Kingston, NY 12401
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