Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Alcohol Use

No one should drink a lot of alcohol. Drinking more than one drink per day (for women) and more than two drinks per day (for men) has no health benefits and many serious health risks, including breast cancer. Many studies show that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.  A pooled analysis of data from 53 studies found for each alcoholic drink consumed per day, the relative risk of breast cancer increased by about seven percent.

Research shows that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t drink alcohol.

Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol can reduce blood levels of the vitamin folic acid. Folic acid plays a role in copying and repairing DNA.  Low levels of folic acid may make it more likely that errors occur when cells divide, which can cause cells to become cancerous. Such errors can lead cells down a pathway to become cancer.

However, drinking in moderation has some health benefits like lowering the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and death. It is important to note that drinking excessive alcohol has no health benefits, only health risks.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/DrinkingAlcohol.html

Understanding Breast Cancer: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

No one knows more about your body than you do – not your partner, not your parents, not even your doctor. So when you talk with a health care provider about your health, remember that you have valuable information to share. You know about changes in your body and about any problems you may be having. Share that information. Open and honest communication between you and your doctor is one of the best ways to make sure you get the care you deserve.

To get the most out of each doctor’s visit, try following these guidelines:

  1. Be prepared. It is often helpful to gather information about your health concerns — from the library (books and medical journals), trusted Internet sites, etc. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be talking to your doctor.
  1. Organize your questions ahead of time. You should be able to talk openly and honestly with your doctor about breast health and breast cancer to make sure all of your questions are answered. To help you get started, Susan G. Komen® has a series of 17 Questions to Ask the Doctor topic cards on a variety of breast cancer issues. Each card contains important questions to discuss with your doctor. Space is provided for you to jot down the answers. Also, be sure to bring a voice recorder to capture your conversation so you can refer back to your doctor’s responses. These questions will help your doctor understand and address your specific concerns. You can download and print these cards to take to your next doctor’s appointment at www.komen.org/questions.
  1. Tell your story. When your doctor comes in, ask if you can take a few minutes to briefly explain your situation and concerns. Be as specific as you can. Then, give the doctor your list of questions and ask them.
  1. Give feedback. If your doctor’s responses were helpful, say so. This kind of feedback will encourage your doctor to talk with you, listen to you and continue to help you. Doctors are just like anyone else; they want to do their job well. That means doing whatever they can to help you stay healthy or to get better. Remember, although doctors may know a great deal about breast health and breast cancer, they may not truly understand or be aware of all that you are going through. You can help your doctor help you by sharing your feelings and concerns.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/QuestionstoAsktheDoctorPDFDownloads.html?ecid=vanityurl:57


Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Menopausal Hormone Use

bc-risk-mtp-pinkIn the past, many women used menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), also known as hormone replacement therapy, to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. But studies show that use of estrogen plus progestin increases the risk of both developing and dying from breast cancer. Although MHT is approved for the short-term relief of menopausal symptoms, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends women use only the lowest dose that eases symptoms for the shortest time needed.

When women take these hormones (estrogen plus progestin), their risk of having an abnormal mammogram increases within the first year of use and their risk of breast cancer increases within the first five years of use. The risk of breast cancer goes up slightly each year a woman takes estrogen plus progestin. One large study found women who use estrogen plus progestin for five or more years (and are still taking it) more than double their breast cancer risk.

When women stop taking MHT, the risk of breast cancer starts to decline. After about 5 to 10 years, the risk returns to that of a woman who has never used MHT.

Learn more:  http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/PostmenopausalHormoneUse.html

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Family History

bc-risk-mtp-pinkWhile most people diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease, a family history of certain types of cancer (breast, ovarian or prostate) can increase your risk of breast cancer. This increased risk may be due to genetic factors (known and unknown), shared lifestyle factors, or other family traits.

  • Women who have a sister or mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 have almost twice the risk of women with no family history of breast cancer.
  • A history of prostate cancer in a father or brother may also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, especially if the prostate cancer was found at a young age.

Breast cancer screening for women at higher risk

There are special breast cancer screening guidelines for some women at higher risk. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, talk with a doctor about which screening options are right for you. You may need to be screened earlier and/or more often. Additionally, if you have a higher risk of breast cancer, there are some options that may help lower your risk, including:

  • Such decisions should only be made after talking with your doctor.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FamilyHistoryofBreastOvarianorProstateCancer.html


Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Personal Health History

bc-risk-mtp-pinkUnderstanding what factors in your personal health history might affect your risk can help you work with your doctor to address any concerns you may have and develop a breast cancer screening plan that is right for you.

  • High bone density, age at first period, age at menopause, current or recent use of birth control pills and menopausal hormone use all are linked to blood estrogen levels which can impact breast cancer risk.
  • Women who have had ovarian cancer appear to have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Women who have an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have an increased risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of getting a new breast cancer. If the first breast cancer was hormone receptor-negative, the risk may be higher compared to those survivors whose first breast cancer was hormone receptor-positive.
  • Those with a history of Hodgkin’s disease in childhood or early adulthood are about 8 to 25 times more likely to get breast cancer.


Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Diet/Nutrition

bc-risk-mtp-pinkSome risk factors that are linked to breast cancer, like being a woman and getting older, are not things you can change. But other factors, like maintaining a healthy weight, may help lower your chances of getting breast cancer.  Although not all the behaviors listed below lower the risk of breast cancer, they are good for overall health.  Everyone should aim to:

  • Eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Studies have shown that eating vegetables and fruits may help lower the risk of some breast cancers. Studies have also shown that women with higher levels of carotenoids (found in carrots, sweet potatoes and squash) have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women with lower levels.
  • Choose 100 percent whole grain foods (such as 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa).
  • Limit red meat and processed meat (choose chicken, fish or beans instead).
  • Eat “good” fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). These are found in foods such as olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocado and olives.
  • Limit “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats). These are found in foods such as red meat, fatty deli meats, poultry skin, full fat dairy, fried foods, margarine, donuts and microwave popcorn

Learn more:  http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/HealthyBehaviorsampRisk.html and http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/What_We_Do/We_Fund_Research/Your_Research_Dollars_at_Work/2015%20Research%20Fast%20Fact%20-%20Nutrition%20and%20Breast%20Cancer.pdf



Breast Cancer Education: Understanding a Pathology Report

bc-education-mtp-pinkNot all breast cancers are the same. A biopsy is a test that removes cells or tissue from the suspicious area of the breast. It is needed in order to diagnose breast cancer. Once biopsied, cells are sent to a lab for a pathology report. The following information will usually be available on this report if the cells studied are cancerous:

  • Lymph Node Status: If lymph nodes were removed, a pathology report will show if the lymph nodes contain cancer cells.
  • Tumor Margins: When breast cancer is removed by surgery (during a surgical biopsy, lumpectomy or mastectomy), a rim of normal tissue surrounding the tumor is also removed. This rim is called a margin. It helps show whether or not all of the tumor was removed.
    • Positive (involved) margins: Contain cancer cells.
    • Close margins: Cancer cells approach but do not touch the edge of the biopsy.
    • Negative (not involved, clear or clean) margins: Do not contain cancer cells
  • Tumor Grade: For invasive breast cancers, the shape is noted and a grade is assigned. Tumor grade relates to the structure of the cells. It is different from tumor stage. This determines how different the cancer cells look from healthy cells. In general, the more the cancer cells look like normal breast cells, the lower the grade and the better the prognosis.
    • Grade 1: Cells look most similar to normal and are not growing rapidly.
    • Grade 2: Cells look somewhat different than normal.
    • Grade 3: Cells look very abnormal and may be spreading/growing rapidly.
  • Non Invasive vs. Invasive:
    • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer (stage 0).
    • Invasive breast cancer (also called infiltrating cancer) means the cancer cells inside of a milk duct or lobule have broken out and spread to nearby tissues
  • Tumor Size: Tumor size is most often reported in centimeters or millimeters. The best way to measure tumor size is under a microscope. In general, the smaller the tumor size, the better the prognosis.
  • Diagnosis: This is the most important part of the pathology report. It gives the final diagnosis and may include information on the cancer such as tumor size, type, grade, hormone receptor status and HER2/neu status.
  • Hormone Receptor Status: Hormone receptors are proteins found inside some cancer cells. When hormones (estrogen and progesterone) attach to these receptors, they make cancer cells grow. Knowing the hormone receptor status will help guide your treatment.
    • Estrogen and Progesterone Receptive-positive (ER+ and PR+) tumors have many hormone receptors and there are treatments that prevent the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow may stop tumor growth. .
    • Estrogen and Progesterone Receptive-negative (ER- and PR-) tumors have few or no hormone receptors and are not treated with hormone therapies.
  • HER2/neu Status: (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) is a protein that occurs on the surface of some breast cancer cells.
    • HER2/neu-positive (HER2+) tumors have many HER2/neu genes inside the cancer cells (also called HER2/neu over-expression), which causes a large amount of HER2/neu protein on the surface of the cancer cells. About 15-20 percent of breast cancers are Her2+. These breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other tumors. There are treatments that specifically target HER2/neu and block the ability of the cancer cells to receive the signals that cause them to grow.
    • HER2/neu-negative (HER2-) tumors have few HER2/neu genes inside the cancer cells and little or no HER2/neu protein on the surface of the cancer cells and are not treated with HER2-targeted therapies.
  • Triple Negative: If all three statuses are negative (ER, PR, and HER2/neu) then the patient’s cancer is Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The current standard of treatment for these cancers is some combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These cancers tend to be very aggressive and recur (come back) early.

Learn more about breast biopsies: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Biopsies.html

Learn more about types of breast cancer tumors:


Breast Cancer Education: Know What is Normal for You

bc-education-mtp-pinkThe warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common symptoms are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge.

Know what is normal for your breasts and nipples, and see a doctor if you notice any of these changes

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away

In most cases, the changes are not cancerous. However, the only way to be sure is to see a doctor. If you have breast cancer, the survival rate is highest if found in the early stages.

It is important to remember that each person’s breasts are different. So, some women may find that their breasts feel lumpy all the time. This can be due to the natural bumpy texture of breast tissue. If the lumpy texture can be felt throughout the whole breast and the breasts feel like each other, then it is likely normal breast tissue. However, if the lumps feel harder or different in one section of the breast, or one breast compared to the other breast, it should be checked out. This type of lump could be breast cancer or a benign breast condition.

Nipple discharge is another change that can be uncomfortable, but is rarely cancer. The discharge could be the body’s natural reaction to the nipple being squeezed.

If you notice nipple discharge that is any of the following see a doctor:

  • Occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Is bloody or clear (not milky)
  • Occurs in only one breast

Nipple discharge can be the sign of an infection or other condition that needs treatment. See a doctor if you have any nipple discharge.

See the breast cancer warning signs at http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/WarningSigns.html

Komen Mid-Missouri Race Team Profile: Brady Glass

For Team Brady Glass, the Susan G. Komen Mid-Missouri Race for the Cure is personal.

“There’s nothing more important to us Bradys as the fight against breast cancer,” says Joshua Brady. “We all witnessed Doris Brady – my mom and Jerry Brady’s wife – fight for six long years against this disease. We are for anything that helps bring awareness to this disease. We think more awareness means more funding to scientists battling to find a cure. I hope sometime soon nobody else will have to lose a mom or a wife to breast cancer.”

komenmidmorace_brady1Josh Brady’s team has participated in the Komen Mid-Missouri Race for the Cure since the event’s inaugural year, 2010, the first year after his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

For a company like Brady Glass, losing Doris was like losing a family member.

“Even our employees that don’t have the last name Brady felt like they lost a mom when my mom passed away in January 2015,” said Josh. “It is the least we can do to get up early and support these ladies that are going through the same exact thing my mom went through. We also want to be there for the families that are impacted by breast cancer; sometimes their emotional fight is forgotten.”

komenmidmorace_brady2Participating in the Komen Mid-Missouri Race for the Cure is so important to the Bradys that Josh has overlooked his own pain in order to be there. “I had a bad motorcycle accident in June 2013. Up to that point, I hadn’t missed a Race.” After knee surgery that August, his only goal was to make it to and through the Race. “As painful as it was, I did make it all the way to the finish line.”

Two years later, the 2015 Race was the first without his mom. “Our entire family and company made it to the Race,” said Josh. “We finished last by a long shot, but we did it together!”

komenmidmorace_brady3The Bradys don’t have to do much to convince people to join their Komen Mid-Missouri Race Team. Their coworkers and employees know how much this fundraiser means to Josh and his family. Even customers and friends outside of the company are participating on the Brady Glass Team.

“You don’t have to know someone that had breast cancer to get a team together,” says Josh. “The event is full of life, music, dancing. It’s a celebration of people who need to be picked up and encouraged. I believe we could all use events like this that bring people together for a great cause.”

The 7th Annual Susan G. Komen Mid-Missouri Race for the Cure® takes place on Sunday morning, Oct. 9, in Flat Branch Park in historic downtown Columbia. Register online at http://www.komenmissouri.org/MidMoRace.

The funds raised at the Komen Mid-Missouri Race will directly impact the breast health needs of local women, men and families. Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised by Komen Missouri stays in the local community to fund lifesaving breast cancer screening, breast health education and patient support programs. The remaining 25 percent funds cutting-edge, global breast cancer research.

Breast Cancer Education: Genetic Testing for Those at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer

bc-education-mtp-pinkFamily history and some inherited genetic mutations affect breast cancer risk in both men and women. Having an immediate family member (a parent, sibling or child) with a history of breast cancer increases your own risk of breast cancer.

You should know, however, that genetic mutations linked to breast cancer are rare in the general population. Not all men and women with a family history of breast cancer are likely to have a known genetic mutation. Inherited gene mutations account for only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

Mutations are changes in the genetic code of a gene that affect its function. Inherited gene mutations can be passed on from a parent to a child. Some inherited gene mutations increase breast cancer risk.

Genetic testing gives people the chance to learn if they carry a gene mutation that increases their risk of developing breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) are the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer.

People who have a BRCA1/2 mutation have an increased risk of breast cancer and (for women) ovarian cancer. Although genetic testing for BRCA1/2 is widely advertised, testing is only recommended for certain people, including those with:

  • A known BRCA1/2 gene mutation (or other inherited gene mutation linked to breast cancer) in the family
  • A personal history of breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • A personal history of breast cancer at any age and a family member (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or first cousin) diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • A personal history of breast cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • A personal history of triple negative breast cancer (breast cancer that is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-negative) diagnosed at age 60 or younger
  • A personal or family history of ovarian cancer
  • A personal or family history of male breast cancer

A family member (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece) diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45 or younger

There is only a very small chance that your family carries a BRCA1/2 mutation if:

  • You or an immediate family member is the only person in your family with breast cancer
  • The breast cancers in your family all occurred at older ages

In most cases, genetic testing is not recommended when there is a low chance of finding a mutation.

Remember that most breast cancers are not due to a BRCA1/2 mutation. Although BRCA1/2 gene mutation testing is a simple blood test, the risks and benefits should be considered before testing. There are potential physical, emotional and financial impacts of knowing your genetic status. Thus, testing for the BRCA1/2 mutation is recommended only for people who fall into one of the categories listed above.

Genetic counseling and BRCA1/2 testing

Genetic counselors

It is strongly recommended that you speak with a genetic counselor (or other health care professional trained in genetic counseling) before deciding whether to be tested for a BRCA1/2 or other gene mutation. Only people who meet the criteria above should consider testing. A genetic counselor can help you determine whether you meet these criteria. He or she can also discuss the benefits and risks of testing (more on these issues) with you.

For more information on genetic counseling, visit the National Cancer Institute’s website (or call its hotline at 1-800-4-CANCER) or the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ website.

A doctor or genetic counselor can help you decide whether genetic testing is appropriate for you or your family members. For more information on genetic counseling, visit the National Cancer Institute’s website (or call its hotline at 1-800-4-CANCER) or visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ website.

For more information on inherited gene mutations, visit: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/GeneMutationsampGeneticTesting.html

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/About_Breast_Cancer/Tools_and_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Breast_Self_Awareness_Cards/Genetics%20and%20Breast%20Cancer.pdf

Hereditary breast cancer: http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/What_We_Do/We_Fund_Research/Your_Research_Dollars_at_Work/2015%20Research%20Fast%20Facts%20-%20Hereditary%20Breast%20Cancer.pdf