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An individual approach to breast cancer

Lifestyle Desk
Published on : 22 October 2017, 12:52 PM
An individual approach to breast cancer


An individual approach to breast cancer:

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012 (the second most common cancer recorded). This represents about 12% of all new cancer cases and 25% of all cancers in women. It is the fifth most common cause of death from cancer in women. [World Cancer Research Fund International]

A cancer diagnosis is one of the most personal experiences that a woman goes through. Yet the strategies which have been used so far to diagnose breast cancer were so broad that it contributed little to fewer-breast cancer deaths or women living longer with the diseases. More comprehensive screening which required and asked women over 40 to get tested every year often resulted in false-positive readings which prompted many women to go through unnecessary testing and biopsies which came with serious complications

Experts, however, nowadays suggest a more personalized screening depending upon who the woman is. A woman’s personal habitual history of smoking, alcoholism and family history should be taken into consideration while scheduling an exact time of screening.

Women today than ever before are more informed about the treatments and therapies they want to receive and could determine the level of aggression of the treatments depending upon the DNA which may or may not contains a mutation.

As breast-cancer care gets more personal, women are becoming empowered to make better decisions, and research reveals what they should know about the potential biases of the doctors who treat them. A breast-cancer diagnosis is still a life-changing journey. But now women have more of the custom tools they need to effectively navigate it.


Why women prefer double mastectomy:

Mastectomy is the removal of the whole breast. There are five different types of mastectomy: "simple" or "total" mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, radical mastectomy, partial mastectomy, and subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy. [BREASTCANCER.ORG]

A recent study published in JAMA Surgery found that the increase in more women opting for ‘double mastectomy’ is driven in part by their surgeons. The rate at which women with cancer in one breast chose to remove both increased nearly by six-fold from 1998 to 2011. Even though Doctors discourage CPM or ‘contralateral prophylactic mastectomy’ or the removal of the healthy breast when the other has cancer, the most common reason surgeons gave for being willing to perform CPM, even if they were initially reluctant, was “to give patients peace of mind” and “avoid patient conflict.”

A March 2016 study by researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute looked at over 4000 cases of women and found that removal of both the breast did not markedly improve a woman’s quality of life.

The research also found that surgeons who are open to performing CPM or removal of both the breasts may contribute to women opting for CPM by 34%; even though the cancer is an early stage and have an average risk for disease in the other breast.

The study author Dr. Steven Katz, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, says, “the emotional reactions to cancer frequently prime patients to desire the most aggressive approach.” Katz also found that a woman’s fear of the recurrence of cancer or her desire to avoid regret can also lead to a decision of opting a more aggressive surgery.

How DNA can guide cancer treatments:

Genetic information reveals a lot about how cancer works. An inherited mutation in BRCA1 and BRCA2 puts women at high risk and allows them to choose the treatment accordingly. The mutation also reveals the possibility of ovarian cancer and the removal of the ovaries to prevent cancer.

Genetic information can also identify women who do not need chemotherapy. Certain cases of early-stage breast cancer reveal that not every woman has to go through the toxic treatment and still have the same five-year survival rate as those who get chemo.


Habits that contribute to improving breast cancer treatment:

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can make a person feel powerless, but there are some things women can do to improve how they feel throughout the process potentially. Here are some strategies recommended by experts – and others that may enhance the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of treatment.



Doctors recommend walking 3-5 times a week during treatment which also helps the brain to function well. Dr. Ann Partridge, director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recommend doing exercise for women undergoing treatment.


Women undergoing cancer treatment should follow diet filled with lots of fruits and vegetables containing fibers and antioxidants which also work as preventive medicines. Developing habit of eating fruits at an early age reduces the risk of cancer by 25%

  • YOGA

Practicing yoga during the treatment help in reducing the side effects of the treatments, studies show. It helps in reduced daytime drowsiness, fatigue and few markers of inflammation than those who didn’t.


Growing evidence also suggests that the amount of sleep a woman gets each night is linked to a better survival chance from breast cancer. Researchers suggest that a woman getting less than five hours of sleep is likely to die from breast cancer 1.5 times more than a woman who sleeps for more than six hours.


According to Dr. Partridge, it’s important to take good care of the mind when going through breast cancer. If a person is not doing well emotionally, they may perceive their physical symptoms of cancer as worse. Calming practices like mindfulness meditation will help to overcome stress, anxiety, and depression.


Source: Time Magazine, Author: Alice Park and Alexandra Sifferlin

Re-written by Mahinur Akther