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October 2005: The Fight Against Breast Cancer

01 Oct 2005

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a physician of Women’s Health Specialists at Weiss, Dr. Hollingsworth is dedicated to fully educating women about health needs, and strives to be your partner in health. Having known friends and close family members who have been afflicted by this disease, Dr. Hollingsworth is committed to educating women about breast cancer.

The Fight Against Breast Cancer

Dr. Shayna Hollingsworth
Obstetrician/Gynecologist
Weiss Memorial Hospital
(773) 564-6025

Every woman is at risk for developing breast cancer. As a woman, it is very important to become educated about this disease and what preventive measures you can start taking today. Self breast exams, annual physician exams, and in some cases, routine mammograms, are just a few of the key steps in the fight against breast cancer.

What is breast cancer?
The breast is mainly composed of connective tissue, lymph nodes, mammary ducts and fatty tissue. There is also an intricate network of blood and lymph vessels in the breast. Cells in the breast grow, divide and rest in cycles. Specific genes regulate the growth and resting cycles of these cells. When the genes become abnormal, these cells can multiply out of control, and breast cancer may develop. Approximately 2-10 percent of breast cancers may be genetically linked to changes in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. If you have a strong family history of the disease with afflicted family members under the age of 50, it may be beneficial to test for this particular gene mutation.

Who develops breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 40-59. It is estimated that approximately 211,240 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year alone. Every woman is at risk for developing breast cancer and as you get older, your risk increases. The following is a list of factors that may increase you risk:

  • Personal or family history
  • Smoking
  • Excessive weight
  • Prolonged estrogen exposure
  • First full term pregnancy after 30
  • Never having a full term pregnancy
  • Early start of menstruation
  • Late menopause
  • Heavy alcohol use

Early detection is key
One of the biggest fears for any woman is being diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection and screening are the best ways to minimize the risk of developing the disease. Breast cancer is often most treatable when detected early. The following are recommended guidelines for early detection of breast cancer:

  • Monthly self breast examinations beginning at age 20. It is important to learn what normal tissue feels like in your breast so that you will be able to detect any changes.
  • Obtain a breast examination by your physician at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year after age 40.
  • Mammogram every 1-2 years for women ages 40-49 (you may need a mammogram more often depending on your level of risk).
  • Mammogram every year for women age 50 and older (new digital mammograms are available).

What can I do?
Making healthy lifestyle choices will improve your overall mental and physical well being, and it may help to lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Here are some easy tips you can start following today:

  • Reduce your intake of “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats)
  • Increase your intake of “good” fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce alcohol consumption to one drink per day
  • Quit smoking
  • Take a multi-vitamin with folic acid daily
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Participate in activities that can reduce your stress and enhance your quality of life, such as yoga, meditation and prayer.

As women, we must continue the fight against breast cancer… arming ourselves with knowledge. Early detection and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to winning this battle. With each passing day, cutting-edge research makes new strides in finding a cure for this life threatening disease. With research, technology and our own vigilance, it is only a matter of time until we win the war. For more information about breast cancer or other women’s health issues, call the Women’s Health Specialists at Weiss Memorial Hospital at (773) 564-6025.