Discovering that you have the “C” word can feel devastating. The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among women, except for skin cancers. Furthermore, it is predicted that 1 in 8 (12%) women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer. Although this rate is high, the American Cancer Society also estimates there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. There is hope, and you can beat breast cancer with preventative measures, early detection, treatment, adequate support and healthy lifestyle changes.
Your first step to beating cancer begins before you are ever diagnosed. Preventing breast cancer begins with a healthy lifestyle and changing the risk factors that can be reversed. Weight gain, a lack of exercise and a poor diet are all risk factors for developing breast cancer. To best avoid being diagnosed with breast cancer:
- Manage your weight by consuming a healthy amount of calories
- Exercise intentionally and consistently, consider Finley’s wellness classes
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products
2. Early Detection
Since breast cancer cannot always be prevented due to genetics, aging, and other risk factors, the next best way to battle breast cancer is through early detection. Women can detect cancer before it progresses with these three exams:
- Mammogram: A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect changes in the breast tissue. The entire procedure lasts about 20 minutes while the breast compression lasts just a few seconds. Women 40 and over are encouraged to have a mammogram annually.
- Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): A clinical breast exam should be performed by your doctor at least every three years for women in their 20s and 30s. Women age 40 and over should receive a CBE every year along with a mammogram. During a CBE, your doctor will use the pads of his or her fingers to feel your breasts and find any abnormalities.
- Breast Self-Exam (BSE): A breast self-exam (BSE) is recommended for women beginning in their 20s. The point of a BSE is to recognize how your breasts typically look and feel so you can see a doctor if you notice any changes. To perform a BSE, you should lie down and put one arm behind your head. Feel your breasts with the pads of your three middle fingers using circular, dime-sized movements. Be sure to use light, medium, and firm pressure when feeling your breasts in order to best detect any differences in your breast tissue.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, several treatment options are available to help you battle it. These treatments include:
- Surgery: Most women with breast cancer undergo some type of surgery. The most common surgeries include:
- Lumpectomy: The breast lump and surrounding tissue is removed.
- Mastectomy: The entire breast is removed.
- Radical Mastectomy: The entire breast, axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral muscles under the breast are removed.
- Radiation Therapy: This treatment involves administering high-energy particles that destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often recommended after surgery.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs that kill cancer cells are injected into a patient’s veins or administered by mouth. This treatment lasts several months and is performed in cycles.
- Hormone Therapy: This type of therapy can be used before or after surgery, or to treat cancer that has come back or spread to other parts of the body. Medications lower estrogen levels and stop estrogen from acting on breast cancer cells.
The Wendt Regional Cancer Center has raised the standard of radiation cancer treatment available in the Dubuque region with a state-of-the-art linear accelerator, radiation simulator and computerized 3-D treatment-planning. These technologies are used to provide radiation oncology services for patients from an 11-county area. The facility is also the only provider of radiation therapy in Dubuque and the surrounding area, completing 22,000 procedures per year.
4. Adequate Support
No matter which stage of cancer you are experiencing, it is imperative to build a strong support system to help you navigate the emotional rollercoaster of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. That’s why Finley Hospital has the Nurse Navigator program. Our Nurse Navigator, Laura Duerr, RN, BSN, is a consistent point of contact throughout diagnosis, treatment and onto survivorship. The Nurse Navigator helps patients and families understand the diagnosis and treatment plan, and serves as a care coordinator and educator. The program improves patient outcomes through support, education, monitoring and early intervention in regard to any of the patient’s needs. These can include practical needs, such as transportation, wigs/scarves and help with insurance concerns; to coping needs, with lifestyle changes, support groups, financial, emotional or insurance concerns.
Additionally, family and friends are excellent support groups. Depending on your beliefs and values, church or spiritual groups may also have lasting benefits. Counselors, in-person cancer support groups, and online support groups are available as well.
5. Healthy Lifestyle Changes
If you have beaten breast cancer or you are still fighting the battle, continuing with a healthy lifestyle may help you more than you think. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and sleeping an adequate amount can help you feel better and in more control of your body.
Battling breast cancer is a physically and emotionally straining process. Following these five suggestions can help you beat cancer and show it who’s boss.
UnityPoint Health—Finley Hospital is on Your Team
You don’t have to battle cancer alone. Wendt Regional Cancer Center in Dubuque is dedicated to providing you with the best care by tailoring it to your individual needs.