Identifying And Confronting Breast Cancer Risks
Thanks in part to government projects such as the Women’s Health Initiative and outreach by celebrities like Angelina Jolie, the risks associated with breast cancer are commonly discussed in the national media. Still, many women may wonder where to begin after determining the need to assess their own risk of developing breast cancer.
Lisa Lilienfield, M.D., of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, says that many good things have resulted from the increased focus on breast cancer over the past few decades, yet there is still a need for more discussion regarding individual symptoms and preventive lifestyle changes for those battling breast cancer.
A great starting point for those investigating their own risk for breast cancer is to first take stock of the family medical history. “Talk to a primary care physician or nurse practitioner about your concerns. It’s important to choose a healthcare provider who will block off a significant amount of time to listen to their patients—30 minutes or more is ideal. The patient should not feel rushed,” Lilienfield says.
Several tests are used to determine a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, provide an assessment of estrogen levels and how the hormones are being metabolized. Lifestyle changes may help to metabolize hormones in a way that minimizes the risk of developing breast cancer.
“Various dietary and lifestyle habits may affect the way your body is metabolizing the estrogen, so people who are overweight, do not exercise, or are diagnosed with endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism may have an increased risk.” Lilienfield suggests eating a number of foods that may improve the way estrogen is metabolized in a person’s body: broccoli, cauliflower and flax seed.
Women living in Northern Virginia are at an advantage when it comes to seeking advice and treatment for breast cancer and other health concerns, Lilienfield says. “I do believe that women in this area have access to quality screening facilities and health education. This area is known for having a fairly well education population, which means many people are aware of many risk factors associated with breast cancer.”
As with any medical condition, being able to identify common misconceptions is also important. When it comes to breast cancer, a common misconception is that hormone replacement therapy should always be avoided in menopause, due to an associated risk of developing breast cancer. Lilienfield says that while certain hormone replacement therapies do in fact carry an increased risk for breast cancer, there are others on the market that have a much lower risk, as they closely mimic the body’s own estrogen. It is important for patients to explore these concerns with health care providers, in order to find safe solutions that will also improve quality of life.
By Lexi Gray Steacy
Northern Virginia Magazine OCT 2013