Well Women Care
Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but taking steps to reduce your risk should be a year-round effort. Below are simple tips that might make a big difference in helping you maintain healthy breasts.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being at a healthy weight should always be a priority, but after menopause it becomes even more important. According to researchers at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, losing extra pounds after menopause can reduce your breast cancer risk by half. This is because carrying excess pounds after menopause increases your estrogen levels and those higher levels may make you more susceptible to a certain type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive). ER-positive accounts for 70 percent of all breast cancer cases.
Losing weight can be difficult after menopause, but by monitoring portion size, getting regular exercise, and reducing your sugar intake, you should see pounds come off. Try to exercise three to four hours a week–five to seven is even better! Your doctor can also provide some weight loss tips
As a bonus, exercise can also help with other menopause symptoms, such as moodiness, hot flashes, trouble sleeping and forgetfulness.
Eat the Right Foods
Oncology nutritionists at Dana Farber Cancer Center have found that eating foods rich in antioxidants can provide powerful cancer protection. Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids–pigments that give plants their red, orange and yellow colors–are stronger in cancer-fighting abilities than other produce. This is because the carotenoids are antioxidants, compounds which can inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce “free radicals.” Free radicals can damage the body’s cells. Filling your plate with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, red bell peppers, soranges, watermelons, tomatoes and cantaloupe can help strengthen your body’s cancer-fighting properties. Research also shows that eating a lot of the high-fiber cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and radishes can also help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
For another healthy boost, try flavoring your vegetables with olive oil as it will help your body absorb key nutrients.
Eating more Omega-3s, such as those found in salmon and canned albacore tuna, can also help reduce inflammation in the body–and your risk of breast cancer, so try to eat fish several times a week.
Get the Right Screening
* If you have a normal breast cancer risk, then the American Cancer Society recommends a first mammogram at age 40. From ages 45 to 54, women are advised to have yearly mammograms. From age 55 and older, mammograms can be done every two year. However, a woman’s personal history or other risk factors may warrant more frequent or earlier screenings. Your doctor can provide a personal assessment.
* If an immediate family member had breast cancer before age 50, then you should begin your mammograms 10 years BEFORE their diagnosis date. For example, if they were diagnosed at age s48, then you should have your first mammogram starting at age 38.
* If you have had genetic testing and tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, then should be referred to a high-risk clinic and or a breast surgical oncologist to begin screening mammograms or breast MRIs according to their recommendations.
Lighting up increases your risk of not only breast cancer, but many other types of cancers. The carcinogens in nicotine are a cocktail of cancer-inducing chemicals. There are numerous options available to help make quitting easier. Your doctor can help you find a way to break the habit. Ask today!
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.
Get Your Flu Shot
Over the years, some women have expressed concern about whether to get a flu shot or not when they are pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting a flu shot while you are pregnant is not only safe, it is one of the best things you can do. While September, with its frequent nice weather, may not seem like flu season, it is not too early to get vaccinated.
* Influenza is a serious illness, and can cause significant problems when you are pregnant. Even normally healthy women can develop complications if they contract the flu while pregnant. The reason is because pregnancy itself causes changes in a woman’s heart, lung and immune system functions. According to the CDC, pregnant women who get the flu are at a higher risk of hospitalization and even death, than non-pregnant women. Severe illness in the mother can be dangerous to the baby because it increases the chance of premature labor and delivery.
* Getting a flu shot protects both you and your unborn baby.
When you get your flu shot, your body starts to make antibodies that help protect you against the flu. These antibodies are passed on to your unborn baby and help protect the baby for up to six months after he or she is born. This is important because vaccines do not work in babies younger than six months. In fact, babies younger than six months cannot get the flu vaccine because they will not develop a sufficient immune response.
If your child is already born, and you breastfeed your infant, your antibodies from your flu shot may be passed on to your child in your breast milk.
It takes about two weeks for your body to make antibodies after getting the flu vaccine.
* The flu vaccine comes in two forms–the injectable form or flu shot, and a nasal spray or LAIV vaccine. The LAIV vaccine is NOT recommended for pregnant women. Pregnant women should receive the flu shot.
* The nasal spray is for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are NOT pregnant.
* Women who are not pregnant, but are breastfeeding, may receive either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine.
* You can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while you are pregnant. Millions of flu shots have been given to women over the years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their infants.
* If you have your baby before getting your shot, you still need to be vaccinated. The flu is spread from person to person. If you get the flu, you can pass it to your child. Anyone in the household who comes in contact with your baby should be vaccinated.
* The side effects of the flu vaccine are typically mild. The most common are tenderness, soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Some people also experience headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea or fatigue after getting the shot. This usually passes in a day or two.
* If you have symptoms of the flu, even if you have already had a shot, call your doctor immediately. Doctors can prescribe medications to treat the flu and reduce the chance of serious illness. These medications should be started as soon as possible. If you have any or all of these symptoms call your doctor:
* Sore throat
* Body aches
* Runny or stuffy nose
If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 or seek emergency medical care right away:
* Problems breathing or shortness of breath
* Pain or pressure on the chest or abdomen
* Sudden dizziness or confusion
* Severe or constant vomiting
* Decreased or no movement of your baby
* High fever that is not responding to Tylenol or another acetaminophen
If you have further questions about the flu or flu vaccine, talk to your doctor. You may also get additional information at 1-800-CDC-INFO or by visiting www.flu.gov.
Portions of this information were provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.