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Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month Johns Creek Family Medicine is spreading the word about early screening for cancer, emphasizing a healthy lifestyle, and encouraging you to get involved.

Breast cancer has emerged as one of the leading causes of cancer related mortality in women all over the world. Statistics indicate about 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will contract breast cancer at some point in their lives. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer, and ways women can reduce the risks and become healthier in the prevention of the disease.

The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated in the early stages. A mammogram, which is the screening test used to detect indications of breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.

What Are The Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?

But what can women do to reduce the potential for developing breast cancer?  It’s no wonder women are confused about how to reduce their risk of breast cancer. One day high-fat diets are to blame, the next day it’s red meat, then it’s gluten, to breast feed or not to breast feed (and how long??), to have children or not (and at what age?), and then there’s the bombardment of pollutants, chemicals, food additives, and other environmental toxins that may or may not cause breast cancer.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to the potential for breast cancer, including:

  • Age – a woman’s risk of developing this disease increases as she gets older;
  • Inherited changes in certain genes, a personal or family history of breast cancer;
  • Early onset of puberty before age 12;
  • Smoking;
  • Long-term use of estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than 5 years;
  • Being overweight/lack of exercise, particularly after menopause;
  • Having dense breasts;
  • Not eating a balanced diet rich in minerals and vitamins;
  • Alcohol consumption;
  • Never having been pregnant;
  • Having a first full-term pregnancy after age 30;
  • Starting menopause after age 55;
  • Race: In the US, Caucasian white women have a higher incidence of diagnosis.

What many of the breast cancer risk factors have in common is overall lifetime exposure to estrogen. Estrogen acts as the breast tissue’s biological “go” signal. The longer the body is exposed to estrogen prior to menopause – the greater the potential, and menopausal supplements tend to extend the exposure even longer. Having children prior to age 30 somehow has a more protective effect. Estrogen production is also associated with fat tissue, increasing the risk.

 

How much any one of the above factors increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer? The answer to that question has not yet been determined. However, statistics indicate that 70% of women developing breast cancer often do not have any of the risk factors. However, each one of these cited factors has the potential to increase the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

What Can Women Do To Help Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer?

There are some potential risk factors that are not always within our capacity to control – the age at which a woman becomes pregnant, when menopause or puberty occurs, the density of one’s breasts… but there are some healthy living steps to discuss with Dr. Zack that women can take pro-actively to lower their risk:

  • Do not smoke;
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercising;
  • Limit intake of alcohol;
  • Eat a balanced diet with attention to vitamins and minerals;
  • Breast feed or extend lactic period with pump as long as feasible;
  • Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours has had breast or ovarian cancer;
  • Start getting mammograms as early as age 40 for high risk women;
  • Women over 50 should have a mammogram every 2 years.

How Can Breast Cancer Awareness Month Make A Difference?

This month is all about spreading the word about early screening for cancer and regularly scheduled mammograms, painting mammograms in a positive, lifesaving light rather than a scary event, and encouraging your community, organizations, families, and individuals to get involved. We all need to emphasize that a healthy lifestyle is important in reducing the chances of getting the disease, particularly in families with hereditary potential. Annual physical examinations with Dr. Zack at Johns Creek Dermatology and Family Medicine, serving the North Fulton, South Forsyth, Gwinnett County and Atlanta metro communities, are fundamental toward identifying ways to support a healthy way of life, both mentally and physically.

 

Donations to organizations that use all of that money to prevent, research and understand breast cancer, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, or through purchase of pink themed products, could lead to definable treatments for breast cancer. Your contributions are valuable.  So get out there and participate in pink-themed races, thread up those pink shoe laces, and pull on those pink socks to demonstrate solidarity and support regarding breast cancer awareness.

Nervous about getting a mammogram? Watch this short video about mammograms and what to expect: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/mammogram/htm/index.htm

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