October is recognized primarily for its one night of spookiness, costumes, and sugar, but there is a much better reason to celebrate October—Breast Cancer Awareness. We have long known that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in women worldwide, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month seeks to affect that outcome through education and fundraising. The heartening news is that it works! While there is still no cure for breast cancer, the spreading of awareness results in big changes–from lifestyle changes, to screening rates, to treatment, all of which contribute to an improved rate of survival.
There are several factors that are out of your control, but diet is one controllable area that has a big impact on cancer prevention. In fact, research shows that diet could be responsible for as many as 30%-40% of all cancers. While the food you eat cannot directly prevent cancer, it helps by improving the overall health and function of your body through boosting your immune system, increasing energy, and reducing unhealthy cell production. In general, a plant-based diet that is high in fiber and low in sugar and fat is ideal. Eight to ten servings per day of fruits and vegetables is considered “plant-based,” and some specific foods thought to fend against breast cancer are leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, kale, eggplant, peaches, strawberries, and apples. In addition to sugar and fat, it is also advised to reduce the intake of alcohol and red meat, which contribute to a greater likelihood of cancer.
The importance of regular screenings can’t be overstated, and the spread of awareness on this issue has helped reduce the breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S. by 40% in the last thirty years. Mammograms are used to diagnose and detect early signs of breast cancer. Mammograms can help identify an abnormality early, which is key for fighting breast cancer and greatly increases the survival rate. Catching a problem early also reduces the likelihood of more invasive treatments. The current guideline is that women should start having annual breast exams at age forty unless symptoms or family history indicate otherwise. Talk to your doctor about your personal screening time frame.
Another advancement that has taken place in the world of mammograms is the option of a 3D mammogram instead of the traditional 2D imaging. There are many benefits of a 3D image including better cancer detection, especially for women with more dense tissue and in cases of more advanced cancers. 3D imaging also reduces the chances of false positives and follow-up testing since the image is clearer and readings can be more accurate. The Breast Center at The Woman’s Clinic is where state-of-the-art medicine meets comfort and convenience. We offer 3D mammograms in a comfortable spa-like atmosphere.
Breast cancer treatment has seen many advancements in recent years and is continuing to expand as more and more research is done. One big change is the movement toward targeted therapies. This is treatment that is targeted to an individual’s cells and abnormalities found within. Individualized treatment would reduce the use of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Surgical advances have also allowed for the majority of the breast to be preserved. In some cases, a surgical implant can be placed in the same procedure as a tumor removal, which eliminates the need for an additional surgery. New therapies are currently being developed to treat breast cancer in its early stages using lasers or freezing.
Education on diet’s effect on cancer, the importance of mammograms, and ever-expanding treatment options have positively impacted the survival rate of breast cancer patients. In the past sixty years, the number of people still alive ten years after a breast cancer diagnosis has tripled—76% survival compared to only 25% from 1944-1955. Understanding more about cancer prevention, better medical care, and improved treatment accounted for a dramatic decrease in mortality between 1944-2004 regardless of the stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Breast Cancer in Men
While cancer in women is a widespread problem, little is said about men’s breast cancer, but it happens and can be fatal. Just like females, males have breast tissue that develops until puberty when hormones lessen the growth of the tissue. Cancer typically starts in the ducts or glands that produce milk, and although these ducts and glands aren’t functional or numerous, men do have them. Regular screenings are not necessary for men, so instead it is important to pay attention to outward signs and symptoms. A lump or swelling in the breast can be an indication that something is wrong. Watch out for any skin changes like dimpling, redness, scaling, or puckering. Retracted nipples or discharge from the nipples are also concerning.
Like any cancer, early detection is key, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice these or any other changes. Knowledge creates change, which is why awareness is important. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take action—adjust your diet, schedule a screening, research your family history. At The Woman’s Clinic, we are always available to answer your questions whether you want to know more about prevention or are wondering about treatment. Make an appointment with us today.