Mammograms and Breast Cancer

mammogramThe American Cancer Society issued new guidelines for breast cancer screenings. It suggest’s that women should have mammograms starting at the age of 45. While others believe you should start at the age of 40, and even possibly earlier for those at high risk.

Mammograms have helped reduced deaths caused from breast cancer in the United States tremendously since the 1990s, according to the American College of Radiology. It’s been said these screenings can find tumors up to two years before you can!

We always suggest for you to talk with your doctor to see when the right time is to get your mammogram. All women should know the benefits, limitations, and potential harms that come with breast cancer screening. It’s always good to know what your breasts look and feel like. It’s the easiest way to know when something is wrong and you detect it immediately.

Women who are at high risk should be screened with MRI’s and annual mammograms. Here are some of those factors:

  1. Have a first-degree relative like a parent, brother, sister, or child with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and you haven’t had any genetic testing.
  2. If you know you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
  3. Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20 to 25 percent or greater, according to the risk assessment tools mainly based on family history.
  4. If you’ve had radiation therapy to the chest between the ages from 10-30.
  5. Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.

Be sure to schedule your mammogram the week after your menstrual cycle. Limit your intake of caffeine, smoking, and alcohol before your screening. Be sure to not wear deodorant because they can lead to false positives.

 

How to reduce your risk of breast cancer!

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Today, we are going to talk about there are some steps you can take toward breast cancer prevention. We all know everyone is born with genetics they cannot change, but here are some lifestyle changes you can take to help lower your risk.

Here are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of breast cancer! It’s been said that lifestyle changes can help decrease breast cancer risk even in high risk women.

  • Alcohol- When you drink alcohol, it can increase your risk. Try to limit your drinks to one drink per day.
  • Weight- It’s extremely important to stay active and watch your weight. This is especially true if your overweight especially after menopause.
  • Smoking- There is a lot of evidence that suggests there a strong link between smoking and breast cancer.
  • Organic-It’s so important to have a healthy diet because it will give a good founding of  having good health. It’s so important to eat raw and organic!
  • Reduce toxins- Toxins do exist everywhere, however, get in the habit of getting organic products including household items like cleaning products.

Bra Buying Tips Every Breast Cancer Patient Should Know!

professional-bra-fitting-horiz_xj8xjrToday, we are discussing one thing and it’s what kind of bra you should buy whenever you are suffering from breast cancer! We know shopping for a bra can be extremely tedious and scary. Those of you who have breast implants then remember it can be encourage to wear a wireless bra.

We do realize finding a bra without an underwire can be difficult, but we with these tips you will not be wearing a sports bra either! Whether you are a breast cancer patient, in treatment, or in remission, we all know what makes a bra comfortable.

  • Size. We have found women on average are wearing the wrong size bra! Overtime, you body will change, but we know many women will keep the same bra. Also, many women do not know what a well fitted bra feels like. Regardless, we highly suggest for you to get professional fitted at either a department store or Victoria’s Secret.
  • Wide Straps. We all hate those bra straps that dig into the your shoulders. It can cause so much irritation and even back pain. Women who have had surgery and their lymph nodes removed, well its extremely important to find wide straps to make sure you do not increase your risk of  Lymphodema.  We even encourage you to make sure the tightness around your chest isn’t too bad either. Remember, keep it loose and comfortable.
  • Support.  The goal of any bra is to make sure they are supporting your breasts, especially right out of surgery. Implants can become more fragile without the right support.
  • Cup Size.  We have many patients asking us how important cup size is and it’s very important! Remember, an implant will not be as forgiving as a natural breast in a cup of a bra. The right cup size will keep your implant protected and in place at all times.
  • Fabrics. Keep the fabrics simple and comfortable. The last thing you would want is a wire or fabric to irritate your skin and puncture a scar from surgery.

 

5 tips for Coping With Cancer!

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We are giving a variety of tips on how you can cope with cancer once you’ve diagnosed.

  1. Learn about your disease: Everyone is going to have a unique journey and you could have a different experience from someone else. It’s very important to research about YOUR diagnosis and ask your doctor about your treatment process.
  2. Expectations: Be sure to listen to your doctor once you receive your diagnosis initially. However, remember things can change throughout the process at any point.
  3. Be Patient: The biggest thing we try to tell our patients is to be patient whenever you’ve been told you have cancer. Treatments, procedures, and surgery plans can change at any point.
  4. Chemistry: Finding a doctor you are comfortable with is going to make all the difference. This will be a time you will be making big decisions and you want to consult with someone you trust.
  5. You’re Not Alone: Whenever you’ve been diagnosed you’re not alone. There are a variety of support groups to help you and your loved ones get through this time.

How To Cope With Hair Loss!

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We know hair loss is one of the many side affects people suffer from breast cancer. Sadly, hair loss is a visible side affect so it can be one of the hardest side affects to deal with! Your hair is a big part of your self image and femininity, so losing it can affect your confidence. Therefore, it’s completely normal to be upset when you do lose it.

Here are some ways you can prepare for it:

  1. Remember, after your treatment your hair will grow back. This is not a permanent side affect.
  2. There is a chance your eyebrows and eyelashes may fall out.
  3. Be sure to ask your nurse to find out what exactly will happen from your treatments. Different treatments will give different side affects.
  4. If you have children, it’s important to prepare them as well, and to let them know that your hair will grow back.
  5. Use gentle shampoo and conditioner.
  6. Do not use heat to dry your hair. Try letting it air dry.
  7. We’ve seen a variety of patients cut their hair short for more volume initially.
  8. Always protect your scalp from sun.
  9. Avoid all chemical dyes during this time.
  10. Take your time to find a hair piece that fits you!

Hair loss is something that women deal with on an individual basis. Do not feel pressures to wear a wig or head scarf. There are not rules-just do what’s best for you. We are big fans of Cure Diva! They have a variety of products that can help you with hair loss.

Support Groups & Cancer!

Getting the news of being diagnosed with breast cancer can be one of the hardest moments in your life. Sometimes, we even see patients find that news harder than the actual treatment process. We know and can say that attitude is the little thing that can make a big difference.  However, no one said you have to handle this news and treatment process alone.

There are so many support groups out there, and they can focus on a variety of topics. For example, some groups can help educate and explain what your body is going through. While other groups can handle the emotional side post diagnosis. These groups are going to expect you to share your feelings because they will include other people who know exactly what you are going through. We always recommend you open up to your friends and family, but studies have shown that some of the best advice one can get is from someone who is going through something similar.

Support groups can be held in a variety of locations like in clinics, churches, homes, and more! Other groups can even offer more than just advice, like meditation to help ease the stress of the news.

While we always encourage all of our patients to share their feelings during this difficult time, please keep one thing in mind: there’s no right or wrong way to share your feelings. Some patients are comfortable sharing their feelings in a group setting while others feel better talking to their friends and family. We also know this news can be difficult on your loved ones so please ask us about support groups for them!

Finally, talking to a patient navigator is a great first step in finding the support group that fits you. Don’t forget, ladies and gentleman, we are always here to answer your questions so please reach out if you have any!

Breast Cancer & Sex

breast-cancer02Today, we are going to discuss the one issue that affects a variety of women suffering from breast cancer-the loss of libido. You may have lost your hair from chemotherapy, put on weight, lost energy, fatigued, nauseated, and feel pain in new places. We don’t blame you if you don’t feel in “the mood”.

Your sex life can be altered due to these changes from breast cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can cause short-term ulcers in your mouth, throat, and other places. Also, some of our patients see physical changes because certain treatments that help cure breast cancer can cause menopause like symptoms. Along with all of these physical stresses, even psychological stress can make the urge to have sex disappear.

We have always urged all of our patients to join support groups. Support groups can truly help you get through this difficult time by discussing issues with others having the same experiences. Remember, the desire of sex may be altered because your breast cancer treatment may lower your estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone levels. Therefore, it’s completely normal to feel this way.

It’s important to be open with your doctor so they can find ways to help you get through this time. They will be able to suggest appropriate medical solutions if needed. Finally, advice from your breast cancer treatment team, friends, and family who’ve had experience with this will be able to help you cope. Always remember over time it will get better.

 

Short-Term Side Effects of Breast Cancer Radiation.

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We have a variety of patients who will need radiation therapy once they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, we are going to discuss what are some of the short term side effects of radiation therapy.

The most common side effect is the area that receives the radiation therapy will become irritated. The area that will receive the treatment will feel more sensitive and even turn pink/red. The area will feel like a sunburn because it will potentially start to peel, blister, and even itch. Don’t forget the area can become more tender and sore. The irritation can get worse throughout your sessions, but it will get better once all treatments are completed. Another temporary side effect is if you are going to be treated near your underarms then you may loose underarm hair and you might perspire less. Woman tend to feel more fatigued as the weeks go by. However, this will elevate within a few weeks of the last treatment.

Remember, radiation therapy is given daily over weeks so it can be a bit of a time commitment. Therefore, work with your family to get a schedule in place so it doesn’t become stressful.

Here are a few things you can do to make the skin less sensitive during radiation treatment:

  • Don’t shower with hot water
  • Avoid the shower water to hit the treated area directly
  • Use fragrance-free soaps with moisturizers
  • Wear loose-fitting shirts, preferably cotton.
  • Avoid having skin-on-skin contact
  • Wear bras without an underwire
  • Try to keep your arm away from your body
  • Apply 1% hydrocortisone cream thinly over the affected area 3 times a day
  • Use a sunblock with SPF 30 or higher on the treated area
  • Apply sunblock 30 minutes before you leave your home

 

Healthy Eating During Treatment!

0ea515dca6abe39ba954546842d80043Whether you are recovering from surgery, receiving radiation, or chemotherapy, you need to continue to focus on the breast cancer. Eating well during this time has never been more important. Good nutrition will keep you strong, help rebuild tissue, allow your body to handle side effects from treatment, and potentially help fight infection.

We have a variety of patients ask us what constitutes a healthy diet. Well, it consists of a variety of foods including a lot of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains. It should give you nutrients to keep you strong while you are being treated. The goal is to eat foods that will help rebuild your tissues and keep your immune system strong. Also, foods high in protein can help tame THE side effects from treatments like chemotherapy.

It’s important to never forget meals and to eat enough calories throughout the day. Items like cottage cheese, eggs, oatmeal, and protein shakes are great options to help keep you full throughout the day. Be sure to eat small portions of food frequently and eat them slowly.

Everyone’s nutritional needs vary so we will work hard to find what’s the best meal plan for you. Eating healthy will make you feel more energetic, maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of infection, and recover quickly.

Friday Feature: Breast Cancer Survivor!

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Maria is a 49 year old single mother of two who was referred to the Bridge Breast Network (BBN) by one of our community partners. She had been experiencing sharp pains in her right breast. As the months passed, the pain grew stronger and she noticed a lumped had developed. Maria was unsure of where to turn for help because she had no insurance.
She received a diagnostic mammogram and biopsy through a grant from Susan G. Komen. It revealed a her mass which was positive for breast cancer. Maria underwent a double mastectomy and was then referred her to the BBN for further treatment. Maria was introduced to her case manager during our Breast Cancer 101 session. Her case manager who assured her the BBN would be there to see her through treatment. One week later Maria meet with the oncologist who explained her breast cancer journey was not over, but just beginning.
Maria endured 12 cycles of vigorous chemotherapy and experienced a variety of side effects including hair loss. One day while in the area, Maria and her daughter stopped by the BBN office with her daughter to show her appreciation and gratitude to the staff for their support during her time of need. Maria was assisted with a where to find a wig and even a breast prosthetics when she was at Bridge Breast Network. She was directed to Dr. Maria Gonzalez at the BBN office who helped her find the perfect wig, Maria. Afterwards, she was measured for a bra and prosthesis. Maria left the office with so much more confidence thanks to our case manager. She called later that week to let us know that she was feeling spiritually and physically better after her visit.
We save lives by providing access to diagnostic and treatment services for breast cancer to low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals. Please, let us know if you know anyone suffering from breast cancer. We are here to help.