Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women and affects over 200,000 people in the United States each year. Every October, we take a month to recognize those with breast cancer and their loved ones. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Saenz Pharmacy is honoring the battle against breast cancer and raising awareness for breast cancer screenings and treatment.
In the spirit of prevention, your McAllen pharmacist at Saenz Pharmacy has written a guide about how breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, as well as how you can reduce your risk of developing it.
Reducing Your Risk
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are several things you can do to lower your risk of getting it.
Maintain a healthy weight—Weight gain and an increase in body weight have both been linked to a higher risk for breast cancer after menopause. A balanced diet and regular physical activity can help you avoid excess weight gain.
Get physically active— Many studies have shown a lower risk of breast cancer in those who exercise on a regular basis, both a moderate and vigorous amount. Read here for more information on the benefits of regular physical activity.
Stay away from alcohol or limit intake— Alcohol, even in small amounts, has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. Abstaining from alcohol altogether is recommended, but if you must drink, limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage a day.
Although these are ways to lower your risk, there are certain risk factors that are out of your control, including your gender and age. If you are concerned that you may be at risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the prevention steps you can take.
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
Once breast cancer is suspected, there are a number of diagnostic tests that your doctor can run to determine if cancer is present or if the condition is benign. Doctors use three different types of test to check for the presence of breast cancer:
- Breast biopsy
While you will likely need to undergo one of the tests listed above to confirm, there are common symptoms that may be indicators of breast cancer. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer:
- Breast pain
- Swelling in part, or all of the breast
- Clear or bloody nipple discharge
- Peeling of the skin on the nipple or breast
- Changes in the appearance or shape of your breast
- Swelling under your arm
If you find a lump in your breast, see your doctor as soon as possible for additional tests and a physical examination. Your doctor will decide which tests need to be run and can create a treatment plan that works best for you.
Many factors, including the size, stage, and location of the tumor, will all play a part in what treatment you will receive. Your doctor will go over all the data and decide on a treatment plan moving forward.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Because every case and form of breast cancer is different, there are several types of surgery that your doctor may choose to perform. Along with surgery, you may need additional forms of treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of radiation to find and kill cancer cells. Depending on where the cancer is, your doctor may choose to use external beam radiation outside the body, or brachytherapy inside the body.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that can be done on its own, but it is often used alongside surgery. Chemotherapy shrinks the tumor, getting rid of it altogether or making any necessary surgery less invasive.
The female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can fuel the growth of breast cancer tumors. Hormone therapy is used to block the body from producing those hormones and can slow or even stop the cancer from growing.
There are certain prescription medications that can greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer or slow and stop the cancer growth.
Tamoxifen and raloxifene are prescription medications that block estrogen in breast tissue. Herceptin is another medication that is used to block the production of HER2 protein, a protein that aids in cancer cell growth.
Your doctor will work with you to find the right treatments for your specific needs. If you have any questions about your medications, your pharmacist can give you further information on those medications.
Battle Breast Cancer With the Help of Your Pharmacists at Saenz Pharmacy!
The battle against breast cancer is one that many men and women in the United States face every year. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one of the best ways to honor those battling against breast cancer is by learning about the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, as well as how to reduce your risk of developing it.
Schedule a consultation with your McAllen pharmacists today to discuss any questions you may have regarding your medications, including those you take to treat or prevent cancer development.