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Breast Cancer 101 - Part 3

Posted Oct 14 2010 12:00am
Part 1 was about breast cancer symptoms and diagnosis while Part 2 described the types of breast cancer and treatment options. Here is Part 3.

Life After Diagnosis

There’s no doubt that cancer is a life-changing experience. The treatments can wear you out. You may have trouble managing daily chores, work, or social outings. This can lead to feelings of isolation. It’s crucial to reach out to friends and family for support. They may be able to go with you to treatments, help out with chores, or just remind you that you are not alone. Many people choose to join a support group -- either locally or online.

Breast Reconstruction

Many women who have a breast removed choose to undergo reconstructive surgery. This replaces the skin, nipple, and breast tissue that are lost during a mastectomy. Reconstruction can be done with a breast implant or with tissue from somewhere else in your body, such as the tummy. Some women opt to begin reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy. But it’s also possible to have reconstructive surgery months or years later.

Breast Forms

An alternative to breast reconstruction is to be fitted for a breast form. This is a breast-shaped prosthesis that fits inside your bra. Wearing a breast form allows you to have a balanced look when you are dressed -- without undergoing additional surgery. Like reconstructive surgery, breast forms are often covered by insurance.

Breast Cancer: Why Me?

The most obvious risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. Men get the disease, too, but it is about 100 times more common in women. Other top risk factors include being over age 55 or having a close relative who has had the disease. But keep in mind that up to 80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the illness.

Breast Cancer Genes

Some women have a very high risk of breast cancer because they inherited changes in certain genes. The genes most commonly involved in breast cancer are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women with mutations in these genes have up to an 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer at some point in life. Other genes may be linked to breast cancer risk as well.

Risk Factors in Your Control

Being overweight, getting too little exercise, and drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day can raise the risk of developing breast cancer. Birth control pills and some forms of postmenopausal hormone therapy can also boost your risk. But the risk goes back to normal after these medications are stopped. Among survivors, good lifestyle choices may be helpful. Recent studies suggest that physical activity may help lower the risk of a recurrence and it's a proven mood-booster.

Breast Cancer Research

Doctors continue to search for more effective and tolerable treatments for breast cancer. The funding for this research comes from many sources, including advocacy groups throughout the country. Many of the 2.5 million breast cancer survivors and their families choose to participate in walk-a-thons and other fundraising events. This links each individual fight against cancer into a common effort for progress.
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