What you need to know about breast cancer

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As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights the second most
common form of cancer in women (after skin cancer), medical
professionals can’t stress preventive measures strongly enough. 

“It’s proven that a healthy diet and exercise help prevent breast
cancers,” says Dr. Parisa Lotfi, a radiologist at Boston’s Faulkner
Hospital’s Sagoff Centre. “Obesity is a risk factor.”

“Learn the basics of healthy eating, including plant-based diets,”
urges oncologist Dr. Leonard Farber, founder of Manhattan’s Farber
Center for Radiation Oncology, which specializes in emerging
technologies and integrative treatment.

Equally important is regular screening. Breast radiology usually
involves a mammogram, which can detect small lesions that aren’t
noticeable by physical exams.

“Never miss a screening. Follow guidelines to catch tumors early,”
says Dr. Farber.

“Catching these means a good prognosis,” says Dr. Lotfi. In the
U.S., women with no family history of breast cancer aren’t advised to
get annual mammograms until age 40. Dr. Lotfi recommends younger women
should have annual breast exams by a physician or gynecologist. Also
important are monthly self-administered exams. Women and men should be
on the lookout for small, immovable lumps in both their breasts and
armpits.

“Breast cancer in younger women without a family history of the
disease is more rare, but when it does occur it’s usually a more
aggressive type of cancer,” she says.

Treatment for tumors includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation,
hormonal therapy and biologically targeted therapy. There are
alternative therapies, too. New developments include options such as
Accuboost targeted breast radiation.

“It’s non-invasive. It targets the cancer to deliver a dose of
radiation that we know works,” Dr. Farber explains.

Breathe in, don’t panic

One thing patients shouldn’t do is panic.

“It’s important to take a breath and say, is this the only option?
If it doesn’t sit right, ask questions,” says Dr. Farber. “Hospitals are
a business, bottom line. So, hunt around.  Choose your treatment,
choose your team. We try to empower the patient as much as possible.”


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