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Here's a few facts you might not know about breast cancer.

September is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many media outlets focus on the most common risk factors for the disease and its typical symptoms. Meanwhile, breast cancer research continues to explore new causes for the disease, and, because breast cancer can take several forms, some symptoms might not be well known either.

What’s in Your Food

Eating more plants seems to lower the risk of developing cancer, but a chemical found in the soil around them may boost it. In one study scientists saw a link between breast cancer and cadmium. This heavy metal turns up in many fertilizers used to grow our food. Other sources of cadmium include:

  • Burned fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas
  • Burned wood
  • Emissions from incinerating municipal waste and medical waste
  • Crabs and mussels
  • Organ meats

Chemicals in the Air

Certain chemicals in environmental pollutants are similar to estrogen and other hormones. Exposure to those chemicals seems to raise the risk of breast cancer. The chances of breast tissue damage is highest when:

  • An unborn baby's mammary glands are forming
  • A girl reaches puberty
  • A woman is pregnant

Drinking and Hormones

Postmenopausal women who drink alcohol daily and take hormone replacement therapy for five years or more increase their chances of developing breast cancer. One study showed that mixing the therapy with 1.5 drinks per day doubled the risk. The good news is that the risk is lowered when the therapy ends.

The Unexpected Symptoms

Some less well-known symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • Enlarged lymph node under the arm with associated redness
  • Discoloration of the breast
  • Dimpled texture to breast skin

Some of these symptoms are associated with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of the disease.

If you experience any unusual changes to your breast or nipples, don’t hesitate—see a doctor. In most cases, the cause is not cancer, but it’s better to be safe. And if you have questions about women’s health issues or need a doctor,  call North Hills Hospital at 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Learn the factors that increase your risk of developing this cancer.

Ovarian cancer strikes only a small percentage of women, but it can be deadly. It causes more deaths than any cancer of the female reproductive system. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to learn the factors that increase a woman's chance of developing the disease.

Factors You Can’t Control

  • Genetics – mutations in genes called BRCA1 and 2 are linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer. Other genetic mutations can lead to Lynch Syndrome. While more closely associated with colorectal cancer, it can be a factor with ovarian cancer too.
  • Family history – if any close female relatives have had ovarian or breast cancer, your chances of developing ovarian cancer are higher.
  • Personal medical history – if you had or have breast cancer or certain other cancers (including melanoma and uterine cancer), your risk increases. Taking estrogen alone after menopause for hormone replacement therapy also boosts the risks.
  • Reproductive history – if you cannot (or choose not to) have children, you might be at higher risk. Each full-term pregnancy a woman has reduces her chance of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Age – most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women who have gone through menopause.

Lifestyle Choices and Other Controllable Factors

  • Diet – a low-fat diet has been tied to lower rates of ovarian cancer.
  • Fertility drugs – women who are at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer should avoid clomiphene citrate (Clomid), as this drug has shown to further increase your risk.
  • Contraception – using birth control pills or injectable hormone contraceptives lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Assessing the Risk

If you’re curious about your risk of developing ovarian cancer, there are several online assessment tools available, including one here. Of course, if you’re truly concerned, you should see your doctor.

At North Hills Hospital, we’re concerned about women’s health too. If you’re looking for  a physician to address reproductive or other health issues, use our online physician finder or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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Learn how to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Center, over 230,000 women will develop breast cancer. An estimated nearly 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2013. In the face of these sobering statistics, discover the top three ways you can lower your risk of breast cancer.

1. Screen for breast cancer regularly
While this won’t prevent you from developing cancer, it can help you catch cancer while it is still in a more treatable state. Perform a self-exam on your breasts regularly. If you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, ask your doctor to guide you through an exam during your next well visit. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms in addition to having a clinical breast exam during annual visits. If your genetic risk is high or you’ve had breast cancer before, your doctor may also want you to have an MRI to screen for breast cancer.

2. Limit your risk factors
While many risk factors of breast cancer are unavoidable, such as race, age and family history, there are factors you can control. According to WomensHealth.gov, the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer. Limit alcohol use. If you’re of childbearing age, consider breastfeeding. This can lower your risk.

3. Keep your body healthy
Obesity and limited physical activity can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Exercise regularly and talk to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Focus on ways to lose weight that are gradual and sustainable. Consider working with your friends to establish fun ways to work out that you’re more likely to stick with throughout your life.

You have the power to take control of your health. Learn more about breast cancer from North Hills Hospital's online health library. If you would like to find a doctor to speak with about your risk factors, please call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Breast reconstruction is an important option for every breast cancer survivor.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer often face a difficult physical and emotional journey. While surgeries, radiation and other treatment options can take a toll on a woman's body, the emotional worry about health and identity after a mastectomy can often be harder to bear. Today we are hearing from Candis Lovelace, MD, a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. For breast cancer survivors, regaining their physical appearance through breast reconstruction can be an integral step in the healing process.

Is breast reconstruction an option for everyone?
Dr. Lovelace shared that most breast cancer survivors are candidates for surgery. In fact, your health insurance will cover your breast reconstruction. She encourages breast cancer patients to discuss breast reconstruction options with her physician as early as diagnosis. It should also be noted that breast reconstruction is still an option for women who have had a mastectomy many years prior.

When is breast reconstruction performed?
Breast reconstruction can happen immediately, even as early as the mastectomy surgery, or at a later date. Reconstruction circumstances are determined based on the breast cancer patient's treatment plan and the type of reconstruction required. For instance, radiation can affect the breast, and a patient will experience better results once treatment has been completed. Most reconstruction surgeries occur over a few stages and adjustments are made as healing occurs. Dr. Lovelace notes that it's the little changes and details that give a patient the best results.

Can breast reconstruction save the nipple?
Your breast surgeon will determine if you are a candidate for a nipple sparing mastectomy. Some very select patients are a candidate for this type of surgery, but the majority will require a mastectomy that removes the nipple areola complex as well. This type of surgery is currently a hot topic of research. Dr. Lovelace explained that there are a variety of ways to recreate a new nipple and areola for the new breast.

What should patients know about breast reconstruction?
Dr. Lovelace encourages every breast cancer patient to thoroughly research her options about breast reconstruction. She should discuss her diagnosis and its affect on potential reconstruction early in the process. Dr. Lovelace also encourages women to use reputable resources while researching, including the American Society of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Lovelace notes that while women may not have an exact match of her original breast after reconstruction, the results still allow women to feel like themselves in a bikini and in clothes. Breast cancer survivors deserve the chance to feel whole again after a difficult breast cancer journey.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We encourage every survivor to learn more about this type of surgery and to discuss it further with their physicians. If you would like a physician referral at North Hills Hospital, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

Be proactive about your health and help prevent breast cancer.

Many women often worry about a potential breast cancer diagnosis in their future. But instead of worrying and waiting, women should instead be proactive about their health. There are steps every woman can take to reduce her risks. Here are three important ways women can help prevent a breast cancer diagnosis.

1. Control What You Consume

By eating well and keeping your weight within normal limits, women can reduce their risk of breast cancer. Post-menopausal women who are overweight tend to be diagnosed more often. Women should make an effort to fill up on healthy servings of fruits and vegetables rather than more processed foods with fewer nutritional benefits. Also, women should limit their alcohol consumption. Even one daily serving of alcohol may increase a woman's chance of breast cancer.

2. Know Your Family History

While only 10% of breast cancers are inherited, knowing your family's history can determine whether you should be screened earlier or more often. If your mother, grandmother or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, discuss your potential genetic risk factors with your physician. Genetic testing is available to determine whether you are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in your future.

3. Get Screened Regularly

Be sure to talk to your physician about when you should be screened and which screening techniques are appropriate for you. Mammogram screenings can detect breast cancer at very early stages, making this disease highly curable if caught early on. Don't skip appointments, and keep your mammogram records up-to-date.

North Hills Hospital is here to help you put your breast health first and lower your risk of cancer. Patients now have access to a newly redecorated Women’s Imaging Center, which offers digital mammograms and bone density screenings in a female-friendly environment. Our mammograms also offer women mammopad to make your screening experience much more comfortable. If you would like a physician referral, please call 1-855-5NHILLS

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We’ve gone soft on mammography

 

To nominate yourself or a loved one, visit www.sendamammogram.com.

One in eight women who read this post will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. A scary statistic, we know. That said, the rates of women dying from this kind of cancer are on the decline. Why? More women than ever before are educated about breast cancer risks and prevention. We would like you to be one of those women. Here are some important facts about breast cancer that you should know. And once you are done reading these facts, we’d appreciate it if you shared them with the women in your life, too.

Know the Risks
Some women are at a greater risk than others for breast cancer. You can lower a number of these risks just by making changes to your daily lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You are overweight or obese and over the age of 40.
  • You drink more than one alcoholic drink a day.
  • You are a smoker.
  • You use hormone replacement therapy.
  • You have a family history of breast cancer.
  • You are older than 55.
  • You have dense breast tissue.
  • You have had menstrual periods for an extended period of time (starting younger than 12 or experiencing menopause after 55).

Practice Prevention
While some of these risk factors are beyond your control, many are not. Here are some ways you can practice breast cancer prevention or potentially save your life with early detection.

  • Maintain a normal weight.
  • Exercise regularly or stay physically active. Even going for a brisk walk 1–2 times a week will decrease your risk of breast cancer.
  • Quit smoking and limit your alcoholic consumption.
  • Avoid hormone replacement therapy. Exposure to these hormones will increase your risk while only postponing menopausal symptoms.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  • Consider breast-feeding your child for as long as a year.
  • Share your entire family history of breast cancer with your physician. She may discuss the possibility of genetic testing with you, also.
  • Schedule annual breast exams.
  • Perform self-exams monthly so that you are familiar with your breast tissue and can detect a change quickly.
  • Schedule a mammogram every 1–2 years if you are over the age of 40.

Do you have any questions about early detection or breast cancer prevention? Would you like to schedule an annual exam or mammogram? Please contact us at (817) 255 -1000 or visit us online for a physician referral.

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