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All about breast cancer types of breast cancer risk factors for breast cancer breast cancer symptoms breast cancer diagnosis stages of breast cancer causes of breast cancer breast cancer treatment side effects of breast cancer treatment breast cancer surgery chemotherapy for breast cancer radiation therapy for breast cancer hormone therapy for breast cancer breast cancer medications breast cancer prevention

Can breast cancer be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. But there are some things you can do to reduce risk of breast cancer. In 1998, the drug tamoxifen was shown to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer by 50 percent in a large study of women at high risk for breast cancer, and tamoxifen was FDA-approved for use in this group. If you are in the high-risk category, talk to your health care professional about this or other new drugs. In addition to having a family history of the disease, other

conditions that put you at risk include:
  • biopsy-confirmed atypical hyperplasia, a type of noncancerous breast disease characterized by the growth of abnormal cells
  • dense breast tissue
  • being over age 60
  • smoking
  • high alcohol consumption
  • early menstruation (beginning at age 12 or younger)
  • late menopause (age 55 or older)
  • never had children or had your first baby after age 30

However, the best chance a woman has to fight breast cancer is to find it and treat it early. Take these steps:

  • at age 40, begin having annual screening mammograms.
  • To make sure you get the best possible mammogram, look for the FDA certificate, which should be prominently displayed at the facility. Facilities not meeting FDA requirements may not lawfully women in their 20s and 30s should have a health care professional examine your breasts every three years, and annually thereafter
  • be familiar with how your breasts feel and what is "normal" for you; examine your breasts periodically, and see a health care professional if you feel or see any changes that don't go away after one menstrual cycle
  • eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintain your ideal body weight, exercise regularly, and drink in moderation, if at all. A University of Washington, Seattle, study recently determined that exercise and lack of obesity in adolescence significantly delayed the onset of breast cancer, including onset in high-risk women who carried the BCRA1 and BCRA2 genetic mutations. (BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes normally act as tumor suppressors; when mutations occur in these genes, the risk for developing breast cancer increases.) The study appeared in the October 24, 2003 issue of Science.
  • frequent and regular physical exercise, at work and at leisure, has been shown in some studies to decrease breast cancer risk; however, this effect has not been firmly established
  • women known to be at increased risk may benefit from earlier initiation of early detection testing and/or the addition of breast ultrasound or MRI.
  • some women considered to be at extremely high risk for breast cancer because of a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, a inherited breast cancer gene abnormality, or previous breast cancer may wish to have a prophylactic mastectomy.

This is extremely aggressive preventive surgery that removes both breasts before any cancer is detected. It can reduce the risk of breast cancer by approximately 90 percent, but doesn't eliminate the risk entirely. Removing the ovaries (prophylactic oophorectomy) may also be a preventive choice women with an inherited breast cancer gene abnormality decide to consider, since the risk for also developing ovarian cancer is greater for them.

More information on breast cancer

What is breast cancer? - Breast cancer is cancer of breast tissue. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast. Breast tissue covers a larger area than just the breast.
What types of breast cancer are there? - Breast cancer is a type of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can develop in one of several different areas of the breast.
What're the risk factors for breast cancer? - Risk factors for breast cancer include age, geographical variation, reproductive factors, inherited risk, previous breast disease.
What're the symptoms of breast cancer? - Symptoms of breast cancer include breast lump, breast discharge, nipple inversion, or changes in the skin overlying the breast.
How is breast cancer diagnosed? - The mainstay of breast cancer diagnosis is the triad of clinical history, physical examination and imaging (mammography or ultrasound).
What're the stages of breast cancer? - The stages of breast cancer depends on its size and the extent to which it has spread to other parts of the body.
What causes breast cancer? - The exact cause or causes of breast cancer remain unknown. Hormonal influences play a role in the development of breast cancer.
What're the treatments for breast cancer? - Treatment for breast cancer begins with a decision about the type of surgery. Breast implants is used for breast reconstruction.
What're the side effects of breast cancer treatment? - The type and extent of breast cancer treatment side effects vary depending on the particular treatment involved, its duration, and its dose.
How is breast cancer treated with surgery? - Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for breast cancer. A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue for examination by a pathologist.
What's the chemotherapy for breast care? - Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. Chemotherapy involves being given a combination of anti-cancer medicines.
What's the radiation therapy for breast cancer? - Radiation therapy is often used to destroy any remaining breast cancer cells in the breast, chest wall, or axilla (underarm) area after surgery.
What's the hormone therapy for breast cancer? - Most breast cancer is sensitive to the female hormone oestrogen. Megestrol acetate is used for hormone treatment of advanced breast cancer.
What breast cancer medications are available? - Medications to treat breast cancer include selective estrogen-receptor modulators, aromatase inhibitors, biologic response modifiers.
Can breast cancer be prevented? - There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. But several preventive measures can be take to reduce risk of breast cancer.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005