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What Women and Men Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Publication: Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tyler

Svetislava Vukelja, an oncologist from Texas Oncology-Tyler, leads the May 4 Walk With a Doc at Rose Rudman Trail. She will discuss breast cancer.

Walk With a Doc, a project of the Smith County Medical Society, begins with registration at 5:45 p.m. The presentation begins at 6 p.m., followed by walking.

In honor of the Komen Race for the Cure on May 13, the following is helpful information regarding breast cancer risk and preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Q: What is the risk of developing breast cancer?

A: One in eight American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. An estimated 30 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in 2017 will be breast cancer.

Q: When should women start routine mammograms?

A. Women age 40 and older should discuss individual risk factors with a physician to determine recommended timing and most appropriate screenings, including annual mammograms, clinical breast exams, and MRI screenings. Women age 50 and older should have a mammogram and a clinical breast exam at least every two years after discussion with her physician. Women with a first degree relative who had breast cancer before age 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.

Women with dense breast tissue are at higher risk and should get an ultrasound after a mammogram to accurately exclude any possibility of hidden cancer, as mammography can miss cancer more often in dense breasts.

Q: Are monthly self-breast exams important?

A.: Absolutely. There are malignancies a patient can feel during a self-breast exam that a mammogram may not detect. The physical exam and mammogram are complementary to each other. One should not replace the other. A woman should communicate any changes in her breasts to her physician and seek another opinion if she feels it is not addressed adequately.

Q: What is the risk if you have positive family history?

A: Women with a mother, sister, or daughter who had breast cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. Close male relatives with the disease also raises risk. If you have family history of cancer, genetic testing may help determine risk.

Q. How can breast cancer be prevented?

A. Patients can reduce their risk of breast cancer by:

  • Limit alcohol intake. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Stop smoking. Research suggests that long-term, heavy smoking may increase risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk.
  • Limit lifetime exposure of breast tissue to hormones. Choose the lowest dose of hormone replacement therapy and limit the duration of time you’re on it.

Factors associated with decreased risk of developing breast cancer include bearing children at an earlier age and breastfeeding for at least one year.

To prevent breast cancer, early detection remains my primary focus. I encourage women to be aware of their bodies, to continue exercising and monitoring any changes in their breast to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

By Svetislava Vukelja, M.D., FACP, is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Tyler, 910 East Houston Street, Suite 100, in Tyler, Texas.

Read the story from Tyler Morning Telegraph.

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