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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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* Date : 09-22-2008 - 02:30 AM (4745 days ago),

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States after lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 250,000 new cases of breast cancer in the U.S. will be diagnosed this year. 2000 cases of breast cancer will actually be diagnosed in U.S. men. That’s right, men actually do get breast cancer and can die from it as well! Approximately 40,000 women and 450 men will die from the disease in 2008. What is even more alarming is that the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly one million U.S. women do not even know they have the disease.
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time for women to freshen up their own self-examination skills and encourage friends and family members to undergo yearly mammograms if they have not done so already. Have a ”mammogram outing” with a few friends or bring your mother and sister with you.
The American Cancer Society recommends that a baseline screening mammogram be performed on all women between the ages of 35 and 40. After 40, women should undergo annual mammograms. Please refrain from taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy for three days prior to your mammogram and do not wear deodorant. For menstruating women, please schedule your mammograms in the two weeks following the start of your menses so that you will be comfortable during the procedure.
If the radiologist finds a suspicious nodule or group of calcifications on a mammogram, he or she may recommend a spot compression view and/or ultrasound of the involved breast. During a spot compression, only the area of concern is compressed to obtain a better of view. A solid breast mass will typically not compress whereas a benign cyst will. Remember that mammograms carry a 15% false negative rate, meaning that they may fail to pick up breast cancer 15% of the time. Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI has a much higher sensitivity of finding a small breast cancer; however, it also has a tendency of over reading benign disease as malignant, leading to more unnecessary biopsies. The cost of a breast MRI is approximately $1000, as opposed to $150 for a mammogram, and is not covered by most insurance plans unless deemed medically necessary.
The Women’s Health Initiative Study of 2002 showed a small but significant increase in breast cancer in women using combined oral hormone replacement therapy (HRT). What it really showed was that hormone replacement therapy may promote the growth of an estrogen or progesterone dependent tumor that already exists in the breast. It is highly unlikely that HRT causes the development of a new tumor. Every woman needs to weigh the risks and benefits of HRT with her gynecologist or family physician to determine if HRT is right for her and for how long she should take it.
Some of the risk factors for breast cancer include older age, a genetic history of the disease such as carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, a long menstrual history, not having children, daily alcohol consumption, use of hormone replacement therapy, obesity and radiation therapy.
So what can you do to prevent the disease? First of all, keep your weight down by exercising and eating right. The heavier you are, the higher your risk is of developing breast cancer among other diseases. Eat hormone containing foods such as meat, poultry and dairy in moderation. Next, if you are pregnant, breastfeed your child as this has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer. Finally and most importantly, obtain your yearly mammograms!
If you or a loved one cannot afford an annual mammogram, please contact the National Breast Cancer Foundation by going to www.nationalbreastcancer.org to find out where you can obtain a free mammogram.
Dr. Tara Solomon is a board-certified gynecologist practicing in South Florida and former Chairman of the Department of Ob/Gyn at Northwest Medical Center. She is the author of the book What Your Gynecologist Never Told You… And Your Mother Didn’t Know. For more information on Dr. Solomon and her practice please visit her website www.drtarasolomon.com.

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