Risk Reducing Actions
Research has shown a link between lower breast cancer risk and regular exercise, eating lots of fruits and veggies, and breast feeding, if you have babies. It’s also been shown that high alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk for breast cancer (as well as lots of other diseases).
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WOMEN WITH POTENTIALLY HIGH RISK
RISK REDUCING MEDICINE
There is a type of medicine, called tamoxifen, that has been shown to lower the risk of some types of breast cancer. It is usually taken by women who have already had breast cancer, to lower the risk of the cancer recurring. For women at high risk for breast cancer, this medication can be used to lower the risk of a first breast cancer by as much as 50%.
That’s a big risk reduction, but again, it does not mean you won’t get breast cancer. Also, tamoxifen can cause some uncomfortable side effects, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and it’s usually taken for five years. Some women should not take tamoxifen, because in some cases tamoxifen can cause serious side effects, such as blood clots and increased risk for uterine cancer.
For women with high risk, the potential side effects of tamoxifen can be outweighed by the lowered risk for cancer. Some women are more comfortable with this action than with prophylactic surgery (see below). As with all decisions related to breast cancer risk, talk to a healthcare professional you trust about all your options. Then take the Right Action for you.
SURGERY TO LOWER YOUR RISK (PROPHYLACTIC SURGERY)
The most extreme step you can take to lower your breast cancer risk is prophylactic mastectomy. That means you have your breasts removed even before cancer develops. Having your ovaries removed is another type of prophylactic surgery that can also lower breast cancer risk.
The advantage of prophylactic mastectomy is that you can lower your risk by as much as 90%. It’s a bit extreme but can give you peace of mind knowing that your risk had been significantly reduced.
The disadvantages are pretty obvious: it’s a big surgery, it changes your body forever, it can result in numbness around the area of the surgery, and it can have a big effect on your self-image and intimacy. Most women are concerned about how they’ll look after surgery. Which is why some opt for breast reconstruction. If you’re considering prophylactic mastectomy, talk to a plastic surgeon about the various reconstruction options and possible results.
Prophylactic surgery may be right for you and it may not. The most important first step is to consider all your options, get advice from healthcare professionals you trust, and then take the “Right Action” for you.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WOMEN IN ALL RISK GROUPS
And of course, it doesn’t mean that if you do all these healthy things you won’t get breast cancer. I wish it were that easy. But it does cut your risk down – so why not do everything you can? You’ll also feel healthier and better overall. These are Right Actions for everyone – so start doing them today!
- Regular Exercise
- A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
- Limited Alcohol
- Breast Feeding