Category Archive: Cancer prevention

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Hispanic women holding breast cancer awareness ribbonsEach October women are reminded of the importance of early breast cancer detection.  Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women, following skin cancers.  A mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer in the early stages, when it is easier to treat.  Women of any age can develop breast cancer, so it’s important to be aware of risk factors and proactive about health care decisions.

Most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease.  However, a woman’s risk does increase if she has a first-degree relative (mother, daughter, sister) with breast cancer.  Having multiple other family members with the disease on either the mother’s or father’s side of the family also increases the risk.  Given this family history, even very young women can develop breast cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other risk factors for developing breast cancer include the following:

Age–  The risk increases after age 50.

Taking Hormones–  Hormone replacement therapy during menopause can raise the risk.

Reproductive history–  Having a first pregnancy after age 30 or never being pregnant increases risk.  Early menstruation (before age 12) or late menopause (after age 55) exposes women to hormones longer, increasing their risk.

Dense breasts–  Dense breast tissue makes cancers harder to detect and raises the risk level.

Genetic mutations–  Inherited changes to specific genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increases risk.

The best breast cancer screening tool is a mammogram.  It can detect cancers that are too small to be felt or cause symptoms.  The American Cancer Society recommends that women of average risk begin annual screening mammograms at age 45.  Some doctors recommend mammograms at age 40, depending on risk factors.  After age 54, a woman who has not had any abnormal mammograms can continue to have a mammogram every other year through age 74.  Women who have higher than average risk factors for the disease should follow the recommendations of their health care provider.

Protect Your Skin and Eyes from Summer Sun

Protecting your skin from sun damageMost of us enjoy outdoor activities during the hot summer months.  However, exposure to the sun for as little as 15 minutes can damage skin and eyes.  The sun gives off harmful radiation in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays that are not visible and are present even on cloudy days.  Exposure to UVA and UVB rays is a major risk factor for most skin cancers.  People with fair or light skin are more susceptible to sun damage, but darker-skinned people are also affected.

UVA rays can cause long-term damage to skin and premature aging.  Effects from overexposure to the sun include wrinkles, dark spots, pre-cancerous actinic keratoses, and some skin cancers.  UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and are believed to cause most skin cancers.  Ultraviolet rays are stronger in the spring and summer months.  The rays are more damaging during the hottest part of the day, between 10 am and 4 pm.  They can reflect off surfaces like water, sand, and pavement.  Cloud cover lessens the exposure to UV rays, but they can still penetrate clouds.  Weather reports often list a UV Index, which measures how strong the UV light will be.  The higher the number, the greater the risk.

Our eyes are also at risk from exposure to UV rays.  protect eyes and skin from sunEye problems related to sun damage include cataracts, macular degeneration, sunburn of the eye surface, and cancers of the eyelids.

How do we protect our skin and eyes from sun damage?  Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on any exposed skin.  Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming.  Wear a hat with a broad brim to protect the face, ears, scalp, and neck.  Avoid straw hats with holes that allow the sun to get through.  Long sleeve shirts and long pants protect the arms and legs.  UPF rated clothing offers protection from UVA and UVB rays.  Stay in the shade when possible.  To protect the eyes, wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.  Wrap around sunglasses work best to protect from the side.  Don’t forget sunglasses for your children.  Their eyes need protection from UV radiation too.  Sun damage to the eyes and skin can be cumulative from childhood.

Women and Thyroid Disease

female thyroid patientAccording to the US Department of Health and Human Services, women are more likely to develop thyroid disease than men.  The risk for women increases right after a pregnancy and following menopause.  One in eight women will be diagnosed with thyroid problems during their lifetime.

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system.  It’s a butterfly shaped gland located in front of the neck.  The thyroid produces a hormone that controls the body’s metabolism rate.  The thyroid can affect a woman’s weight, heart rate, cholesterol levels, and menstrual cycles.

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is one type of thyroid disease.  If the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones, the metabolism slows down.  Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, tiredness, joint or muscle pain, dry skin and hair, depression, and slow heart rate.  Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.  Treatment includes taking manufactured forms of thyroid hormone.

Hyperthyroidism is another type of thyroid disease.  The thyroid becomes overactive, producing too much thyroid hormone.  Symptoms can include weight loss, irregular heartbeat, trouble sleeping, lighter menstrual periods, increased sweating, and trembling in the fingers and hands.  Treatments may include medications, radioiodine, or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland.  Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.

A thyroid nodule is a swelling or growth that can develop on the thyroid gland.  There may be one or more nodules that can be solid or filled with fluid.  Ultrasound tests can be used to evaluate nodules.  Most nodules are not cancerous, so the doctor may just decide to watch and wait.  If the nodule is large or cancerous, it may be surgically removed.  Women are three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer.

September is thyroid cancer awareness month.  When found early, thyroid cancer is usually treatable.  A physician can perform a simple check of the thyroid gland during a routine physical examination.

How To Detect Breast Cancer Early On

The best time to diagnose breast cancer is before symptoms, such as lumps, have developed.

Thanks to advancements in screening techniques, it’s easier to catch it early that it used to be. If cancer is diagnosed before a lump can be felt, it is less likely to have spread beyond the breast and more likely to be successfully treated. Click here to read more »

ALR Marketing Studios