Thursday, October 18, 2007

High Risk of Breast Cancer: 4 Factors

Breast cancer has struck within my family, and when it did I was worried not only for my relative (she's fine now, thank goodness), but also for myself.

After her diagnosis, when I asked my doctor if I should do anything beyond the norm to safeguard my health, the doctor's answer was, "Many more women who have no known relatives with breast cancer get the disease than do those who have a family history."

This was her way of reassuring me, and I've continued to live healthy by getting the usual screenings and not worrying constantly that I will be diagnosed. Every year I schedule my mammogram, and every so often I do a self exam, and I tell other women to do the same. These are the best cancer-fighting aids we have: awareness, action, and advocacy.

To get a quick snapshot of your own risk, based on your family history, Therese M. Bevers, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, suggests you ask yourself the four following questions:

1. Do you have at least two blood relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause?

2. Do you have a blood relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause and a blood relative who developed ovarian cancer at any age?

3. If you have a family history of breast cancer, were any of the diagnosed relatives male?

4. Is your family of Ashkenazi Jewish descent?

If you answered yes to 1, 2 or 3, or to 4 along with any other question, your family history of breast cancer implies a genetic predisposition, says Dr. Bevers.

Talk with your doctor about whether you should consider seeing a genetic counselor, who can give you a much more complete assessment of your risk. (You can also find a genetic counselor yourself at the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

If you learn that you are indeed at high risk, organizations like FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, can provide additional information and support.

One more very important point: The American Cancer Society now recommends that certain women who have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer get a breast MRI along with their mammogram; and depending on the details of your family history, you may need to start screening as early as age 30 or sooner.

The test is able to spot changes that the X-ray might miss (though be warned that means a higher chance of an unnecessary biopsy). Who exactly should consider it? Women who have tested positive for a BRCA mutation; those who have a first-degree relative with a BRCA mutation; women who had radiation to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30 and those whose lifetime risk is 20 percent or higher.

If you said no to all of the questions listed above, or yes only to number 4, you are likely at average ris, which is probably lower than you think. A woman who has no family history has just a one in 13 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, according to large study published in The Lancet.

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Author Bio: Lucy Danziger is the editor-in-chief of SELF magazine. In 1991, SELF founded the Pink Ribbon to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research. Each October, SELF produces a Breast Cancer Handbook feature. The 2005 handbook won a National Magazine Award for Personal Service. Danziger lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

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2 comments:

Jeffrey Dach MD said...

Fibrocystic Breast Disease, the Iodine Deficiency Connection

A good friend of ours just went through an ordeal with breast cancer. The incidence of breast cancer has increased to 1 in 8 women, with 4,000 new cases weekly.

You might ask, could there be a preventive measure which is safe, cheap and widely available that has been overlooked?

The answer is YES , and it's the essential mineral, Iodine, which was added to table salt in 1924 as part of a national program to prevent Goiter. It turns out that this same Iodine in table salt is the key to breast cancer prevention as proposed by the following list of prestigious doctors:

Guy Abraham, MD, Robert Derry MD PHD, David Brownstein MD, George Flechas MD, Donald Miller, M.D.

Dr. B.A. Eskin published 80 papers over 30 years researching iodine and breast cancer, and he reports that iodine deficiency causes breast cancer and thyroid cancer in humans and animals. Iodine deficiency is also known to cause a pre-cancerous condition called fibrocystic breast disease.

W.R. Ghent published a paper in 1993 which showed iodine supplementation works quite well to reverse and resolve fibrocystic changes of the breast, and this is again the subject of a current clinical study.(Can J Surg. 1993 Oct;36(5):453-60.)

Despite its obvious potential, not much has been done with Iodine treatment over the past 40 years in the United States. Since iodine isn't patentable and is therefore unlikely to be profitable to market, there is no money to fund studies for FDA approval. However, FDA approval is not required since Iodine is already an additive to table salt at the supermarket.

For more information see my newsletter.

Jeffrey Dach MD
my web site

genetic cancer testing said...

When breast cancer cells spread, the cancer cells are often found in lymph nodes near the breast. Also, breast cancer can spread to almost any other part of the body. The most common are the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. The new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer. For that reason, it is treated as breast cancer, not bone cancer. Doctors call the new tumor "distant" or metastatic disease