|October 24, 2010
Breast Cancer Concerns
October is breast cancer awareness month. I was disappointed to hear and read about the continuing data from the WHI study. This study was publicized in 2002. The way the news media described the data scared women about heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. Many women went off their hormones. After further analysis, we learned that for women starting hormones within 10 years of menopause, there were many more benefits than negatives.
The average age of the women in the WHI study was 63. This is not the typical peri-menopausal woman with hot flashes and problems sleeping. Almost 50% had smoked or were smokers and many had heart disease when they started on Premarin or Prempro (if they had a uterus). For this analysis, they continued following the women for 11 years and found an increase in breast cancer and more deaths. However, it is only a slight increase, a little over one extra death per year for every 10,000 women. With this slight increase, there can be many factors affecting the data, including what was happening in the placebo group. It is not time for hysteria.
The important thing is for you to understand your risks for breast cancer, depending on your family history, life-style, and how your body metabolizes estrogen.
1. It is important to have regular exams, mammograms and/or thermograms. A Halo checks nipple discharge and can be useful for early cancers in women under 55 years. Remember, it takes 8-10 years for a cancer to be big enough to be seen on a mammogram.
2. Get to know your breasts. The American Cancer Society is not advocating breast exams because many women feel lumps leading to unnecessary testing and surgery for benign lumps. Most women have lumpy breasts. Get to know your normal lumps so you will notice a change.
3. Eat a healthy diet, low in fat and high in fiber and anti-oxidants.
4. Do lots of physical activity.
5. Control your weight. Estrogen is made in your body fat. Our breasts are primarily fat.
6. Avoid smoking
7. Limit your alcohol intake
In my new offices, with Dr. Andrea Cole and with Dr. Diana Hoppe, we have several new tests to look at your risk factors, including genetic testing. We can measure how your body metabolizes estrogen, which is modifiable. This is a science that is continuously developing. Rather than stopping your hormones or being afraid to start, come in and let me help you review your risk factors so you can make an educated decision how you want to live your life. Please see my website for more information and for contact information. I hope to see you! Donna Duvall RN, MN, WHCNP Women?s Health Care Nurse Practitioner