What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer Prevention
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Regular checkups are key in the prevention of the disease, which according to the statistics affects about 1 in 8 women. With the technology and science emerging, the new tomosynthesis, ultrasounds, the new breathalyzer clinical trial, as well as the recommend delaying the age women should get their first mammograms, there have never been more ways for early detecting or preventing of cancer. Here are some recommendations on what you should do on your own.
Know Your Family History
The first step in personalized cancer prevention is setting up an appointment with your doctor to analyze your family history. Instead of waiting on that moment, you can do your homework before and piece together a health history of both parents, three generations back. “If your mother had cancer pre-menopause, you should start getting screened 10 years before her age when cancer was discovered,” advices Dr. Linda Larsen, director of women’s imaging and radiology research at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. In addition, Dr. Deanna J. Attai, a UCLA Health breast surgeon urges women to also take into consideration other cancers. “A family with multiple relatives with colon, pancreatic, prostate, ovarian, and other cancers may also carry a genetic mutation,” she says.
Ethnic background also plays its role. Larsen says that African-American women with breast cancer are at higher risk for a triple-negative subtype common in West African ancestry which doesn’t respond to traditional treatment, though Attai notes that the overall incidence of cancer is “actually lower when compared to Caucasians.” Knowledge is power in the battle against breast cancer.
Ask For Your Breast Tissue Density
Mammography is suitable for detecting cancer in older women, but it can be a little bit harder for young women who have more glandular tissue than fat, which makes their breasts denser and therefore, harder to spot a cancer. With the improvements in the medicine, tomosynthesis can collect images of the breasts from different angles and gives a complete image of the state in the breasts, often reducing the need for further testing. Ultrasound is radiation-free option and can determine if cysts are solid or water-filled. Thermography is also radiation-free, but according to Attai lacks the mammography’s specificity and sensitivity. “There’s no perfect breast imaging study; we sometimes need a combination of techniques.” Consult your doctor about the most suitable option for you.
Take a Blood Test
A simple saliva or blood test can reveal if there are possible mutations such as fro BRCA 1 and 2 or other genetic variants that may or may not be harmful. Those who have detected genes linked to cancer should talk with doctors to set up personalized screening. Researchers are testing these DNA variants beyond BRCA 1 and 2, but further testing will tell whether they are harmful or not. “There’s a lot of interpretive analysis that need to happen. But the more information you have, the more educated you can become,” Attai says.
Take Preventative Measures
“We all have the potential ability to reduce our risk by changing our behaviors,” says Attai. She also adds that a perpetual self-aware approach to changes in breast shape and size is an important addition to the self-exam. Both she and Larsen agree that 20 to 40 minutes of exercise three days a week can reduce the risk of cancer. Limiting alcohol to a glass of wine a day can also helps. “Links between obesity, which causes chronic inflammation, and cancer exist,” says Attai. “So it’s never too late to start taking better care of ourselves.”