Essay: Breast Cancer Prevention

For a woman with a family history of breast cancer, prevention is of paramount importance. It can be very scary to watch a loved one confront breast cancer so women with a family history want to do what they can to prevent having to go through the same problems themselves. That woman may scour the internet looking for treatments, remedies, and lifestyles that will reduce her odds of getting breast cancer. It might even consume her during important periods of her life such as the anniversary of a beloved relative passing or the annual scheduling of her gynecological exam.

Unfortunately, scientists have not found conclusive evidence of what causes breast cancer. However, scientists are aware of several risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Recently, they have even found a genetic marker that might indicate a propensity towards developing breast cancer. While women cannot do anything about their genetics, they can take control over some of the known risk factors to provide a peace of mind about the medical future.

First, and perhaps the most simple thing for a woman worried about breast cancer prevention to do, is to make sure her diet is in top form. This means eating as many whole grains and fresh produce as possible. It also means avoiding processed foods and other foods high in bad fats and unhealthy carbohydrates. Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer. The USDA recommends that all people eat based on the food pyramid, which can be customized to an individual’s lifestyle needs.

Certain estrogen therapies can also cause an increase in the risks of getting breast cancer. Any estrogen therapy should be initiated with full caution after discussing the risks with doctors who specialize in women’s health issues. One lifestyle choice that has been shown to affect rates of breast cancer is the choice to breastfeed. Breastfeeding reduces the amount of time a woman’s body is exposed to estrogen because estrogen levels are lower during breastfeeding.

Other lifestyle changes that may aid breast cancer prevention include reducing alcohol consumption and increasing exercise.

There are also medical interventions that may aid in breast cancer prevention. The most extreme of these medical interventions are prophylactic mastectomy and prophylactic oophorectomy. A prophylactic mastectomy is the removal of one or both breasts and related tissue when there is no sign of cancerous tissue. A prophylactic oophorectomy is the removal of both ovaries also when there is no sign of cancerous tissue.

Less invasive medical interventions include taking drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, aromatase inhibitors, or fenritinide. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are selective estrogen receptor modulators block the affect of estrogen on certain tissues and act like estrogen on others. Aromatase inhibitors work in post-menopausal women to reduce the amount of estrogen a woman’s body produces. Fenritinide aids in breast cancer prevention for woman who already have a history of breast cancer by lowering the risk of forming a new cancer.

In the end, it is important for a woman concerned about preventing breast cancer to be proactive about her health by staying active, eating well, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with her health care provider of choice.