I am a true supporter of saving breasts. I found it hard to phantom that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. That number is just astonishing to me. We need to do more to help with the fight against breast cancer. Here are some recommended tips from experts on increasing the chances of fighting or preventing breast cancer. We have come along way but need a farther distance to go.
A great reason to work out
Exercise can reduce your breast cancer risk. Exercise seems to change the way your body handles estrogen, which often fuels breast cancer. A recent study has taught us that even a few hours of physical activity a week can lower your risk, and the more you do, the greater the benefit seems to be (as long as you keep your weight in check, too). Nearly 30 studies have shown that women who exercise at a moderate to vigorous level for three to four hours per week reduce their risk by 30 to 40 percent.
Cancer-fighting food exists
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently linked vegetable consumption to a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer, an aggressive type that isn’t fueled by hormones and affects about 15 to 20 percent of women with breast cancer, particularly younger women. Meanwhile, another study revealed that women with higher blood levels of carotenoids — micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables — also had a lower risk of ER-negative cancer. Moreover, berries have been shown in recent studies to reduce the number of ER-positive tumors — the type of breast cancer that affects 70 percent of sufferers. The recommendation is eating a cup of berries every day.
New option for at-risk women
Earlier this year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommended that doctors discuss the use of exemestane — a drug currently used only for breast cancer patients — with healthy postmenopausal women at increased risk of the disease (say, due to a family history) after a clinical trial showed it reduces the risk of ER-positive breast cancer by up to 73 percent compared with a placebo. Translation: Like tamoxifen and another breast cancer drug called raloxifene, exemestane could help fend off cancer in women who are more likely to get the disease.
Breast density matters in Breast Cancer
Several states require health facilities to notify women if they have dense breast tissue (information you can get from a mammogram). Having very dense breasts increases your breast cancer risk at least twofold. Dense tissue packs more of the types of cells that could possibly promote cancer and also makes it harder to see tumors on a mammogram — one reason mammography doesn’t work as well on younger women, who tend to have denser tissue. If you’re in the dense group, ask for digital mammography, which helps doctors detect abnormalities more easily than with the analog version. (Your doc may recommend an ultrasound or MRI as well.) There’s a new, 3-D version of digital mammography, called digital breast tomosynthesis, which can detect more invasive cancers than its 2-D forerunner because it produces a more complete image, particularly for women with dense breast tissue.
No cancer left behind
A device called MarginProbe, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year, can be used by surgeons after they’ve removed a tumor to assess whether cells on the tumor’s margins are hard or soft. (Cancerous cells tend to be harder because they contain more collagen.) Then additional tissue can be removed right there, instead of having the woman return for more surgery at a later date.
Game-changing medications for Breast Cancer
Kadcyla is one of the most exciting drugs in cancer care because it works like a smart bomb: It delivers chemo straight to the cancer cells and spares the healthy bystanders. It has been designed for women with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer (a type in which the cancer cells make too much of a protein known as HER2/neu) that has grown despite treatments with chemotherapy and a traditional medication called Herceptin. Kadcyla increases lives and decreases chemotherapy-related side effects, such as diarrhea and rashes.
Chemo with less hair loss
The FDA has recently approved a phase II pivotal trial for the DigniCap, a cap worn during chemotherapy that circulates coolant through its inner layer, reducing the delivery of toxins to the hair follicle. In a small pilot study, the device allowed most women with early-stage breast cancer receiving chemotherapy to preserve the majority of their hair.
Are you a survivor?