Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Though October was officially Breast Cancer Awareness month I think it’s safe to say that we all want to know as much about preventing this awful disease as possible.  I know that whenever I get a chance to be educated (or help educate) women about the warning sings and thing you can do to reduce the risk of  breast cancer, I’m all ears!  Who better to educate all of us about breast cancer than celebrity breast surgeon and founder of the Pink Lotus Breast Center, Dr. Kristi Funk, MD.Susan-g-Komen-logo

I had the chance recently to ask Dr. Funk some questions including tips for reducing breast cancer risk and information about early detection and how you can help to support breast cancer causes locally!  You can check out my Q&A with Dr. Funk below!

1.       How many women are impacted by breast cancer?  And how many women will be diagnosed this year?

One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That means about 12.5 percent of all women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their lives. Approximately 250,000 women are diagnosed each year with Stages 0-4 breast cancer. The good news is that if it is caught during early detection, the 5-year relative survival rate is 98 percent.

2.       Do women’s lifestyles impact their risk of developing breast cancer?

Yes, some lifestyle choices may impact breast cancer risk – making it go up or down. Some risk factors you can’t change. Simply being a woman and getting older increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Other factors you may be able to control. For example, there is some evidence that postmenopausal hormone use, alcohol intake and postmenopausal weight gain may increase your risk, while exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and breastfeeding may decrease your risk.
It’s important to remember that your risk of developing breast cancer goes up significantly as you age – and there’s really nothing you can do about getting older! This is why it’s so important to be aware of what you can control in your life that could be contributing to breast cancer. Also, make sure you understand your family history and talk to your doctor about your personal risk.

3.       What changes can women make in their daily lives to reduce their risk of breast cancer?

While you cannot prevent breast cancer, there are a few important things you can do that may help reduce breast cancer risk. Here are five ways to take control of your breast health:

o One. Maintain a healthy weight. This will help you with different health issues.
§ Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet, choose lean meats and fish, and load up on fruits and vegetables. Good nutrition helps women maintain a healthy weight and has several proven health benefits. Studies are ongoing about the role of diet in reducing the risk of breast cancer.
o Two. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Most often, doctors consider moderate alcohol intake to be one drink per day for women. For some that may sound like a lot, but for others that is an eye opener. So, drink less than one drink a day.
o Three. Add exercise into your routine
o Taking a brisk walk every day, or any other exercise you enjoy, may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. So, get movin’!
o Four. Limit postmenopausal hormone use
o We know from the literature that combined estrogen plus progestin postmenopausal hormones increase the risk of both developing and dying from breast cancer. For each year that a woman takes estrogen plus progestin, her risk of breast cancer goes up slightly and small yearly increases in risk can add up over time. When women stop taking these hormones, their risk of breast cancer starts to decline and returns to that of a woman who has never used hormones in about five to 10 years.
o Five. Breastfeed, if you can
o Studies show that breastfeeding protects against breast cancer (especially premenopausal breast cancer). Breastfeeding appears to lower the risk of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative tumors.

4.       How much does early detection increase the odds of survival?

Early detection is one of the most important things you can do to fight breast cancer. Know what is normal for you and how your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice any change in your breasts, see your doctor. Second, speaking of your doctor, you should have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40. Finally, if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, discuss it with your doctor to find out which screening tests are right for you. After assessing your risks, such as age and family history, your doctor may order a mammogram or other imaging tests like ultrasound and MRI.

5.       When completing a breast self-exam, what signs or changes should women look for?

It’s important to know what’s normal for you. If you notice any change in your breasts or are concerned about your health, you should always consult your doctor. Never be embarrassed. If it’s nothing, what could be better? And if it’s cancer, you will be glad you didn’t wait. After seeing your doctor, you can also reach out to trusted breast cancer organizations, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, to learn more. Visit or call 1-877-GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636).

6.       At what age should self-exams be done regularly?  At what age should mammograms be done annually?

Mammograms help detect any abnormal tissue, so if you are at average risk or over the age of 40, you should be getting a mammogram every year. Make sure it’s digital and not film-screen. Secondly, you should get a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40. Clinical breast exams are given by your doctor at your annual check-up.

7.       Mammograms can have such a stigma attached to them, are there other screening tests available?  If so which method is the most reliable?

The main types of screening tests are mammograms and clinical breast exams. First, get a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk. Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you if you are at a higher risk. Second, get a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40.

Currently, mammography is the gold standard of care for screening for the disease and I’m very passionate about mammograms because they do save lives – many lives. For you to avoid it because it may feel uncomfortable is a bad decision; mammograms can detect breast cancer at early stages - when the 5-year relative survival rate is 98 percent. So please, if you are 40 or over, the annual squishing is worth it – I’m sure everyone who loves you would agree with me.

8.       What can women do to support the breast cancer cause within their own community?

I personally love Yoplait’s Save Lids to Save Lives program because it’s such a simple way to help join the fight against breast cancer in your community. With Yoplait, we can donate up to $2 million this year by saving and redeeming pink lids from Yoplait yogurt cups – via mail and online at For every pink lid redeemed by the end of the year, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® - and the dollars generated through your local lid collection will go back to local breast cancer programs – so this really is a great way to help women in your community.

9.       What is the single most important piece of advice you have for women concerning breast cancer?

It’s more stressful to sit around and wonder if you have cancer than it is to go see you doctor and find out.

Disclosure:  This opportunity was made possible by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark!


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