Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Know Your Risk

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, read this article to understand the risks and how to protect you and your family.

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”.  A month set aside every year to increase awareness of the disease, pray for those who are fighting the disease and their families, and remember those loved ones who have left us when their battle was over.  Most of us have been touched by breast cancer somehow –a mother, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, a daughter.  My personal experience began as a child when I lost my grandmother to breast cancer after an eight year long battle.  I will always remember what a strong woman she was.  Unfortunately, she did not have available to her all the advanced treatments we have today.

Among women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer.  Statistics show that 12.2% of American females will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their life – this means that if eight women were to live to be at least 85, one of them would be expected to develop the disease at some point during her life.  Two-thirds of women with breast cancer are over 50, and most of the rest are between 39 and 49. Men can get breast cancer, too, but they account for one percent of all breast cancer cases.  Despite these statistics, there are more than 2 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., and developments in medications and treatments, as well as early detection is a big reason for that success.  Breast cancer is very treatable if detected early.

While drug therapies have advanced and allowed for survival rates of breast cancer that we have never seen before, there are also several supplements and other alternative therapies that physicians have employed in the treatment of breast cancer.  Some of these supplements may support the immune system.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease. However, having a cancer risk factor, or even several of them, does not necessarily mean that a person will get cancer.

  • Previous history – previous history of breast cancer
  • Getting older – Your risk for breast cancer increases as you age.
  • Family history – breast cancer in a mother, sister, or daughter (“first-degree” relative).  Distant family history such as an aunt or grandmother is considered a risk factor, but to a lesser extent.
  • Genetics – certain breast cancer genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Exercise more than 4 hours per week is associated with 30-40% risk reduction
  • Obesity – being overweight (especially in the waist), with excess caloric and fat intake, increases your risk, especially after menopause.
  • Breast lesions or abnormal breast biopsy
  • Age at childbirth – birth of first child after age 35 or never having children.
  • Early menstruation – first period before age 12.
  • Late menopause – if you begin menopause after age 55, your risk increases.
  • Excessive radiation
  • Other cancer in the family – family history of cancer of the ovaries, cervix, uterus, or colon increases your risk.
  • Excessive alcohol – Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1.5 times the risk.
  • Race – caucasian women are at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women. The exception to this is African-American women, who are more likely to have breast cancer than whites under the age of 40.
  • Heritage – female descendents of Eastern and Central European Jews (Ashkenazi) are at increased risk.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – Long-term use of combined estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of breast cancer.

One tool that is available to women who want to assess their relative risk for breast cancer is the Gail model that was designed by the National Cancer Institute and National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project.  This survey is located athttp://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines:

  • Mammograms yearly starting at 40 and continuing through life time
  • Breast self-exam starting monthly at age 20
  • Clinical breast exam yearly starting at age 20

Women with breast cancer are perhaps some of the strongest people there are.  These are women who typically are mothers or grandmothers, caretakers of their family, and despite an illness that takes all their strength to fight, they continue to also take care of their families and make it all happen.  So to those women who are fighting this disease, “may God bless you and give you the strength to fight and survive, and thank you for all you do for those around you”.

Yours Faithfully and Wishing You Good Health,

Paul Hueseman, PharmD

Greentree Pharmacy

301 South Kirkwood Rd.Kirkwood, MO 63122

(314) 394-2404




  1.  http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/default.htm
  2. http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/about-breast-cancer

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