Ask a Nurse – Breast Cancer Q & A

Ask a Nurse – by Patti Yancey, RN, CMC

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Breast Cancer Q & A

This month we are focused on Breast Cancer Q&A. If you would like to have your questions addressed from a Nursing perspective feel free to email me at: and I will do my best to assist you with your healthcare questions. I will also consult with local physicians and do research to provide you with the latest information! It is my pleasure to assist you!

Dear Patti:

Can physical activity reduce the risk of breast cancer? Exercise boosts the immune system and helps you to keep your weight in check. With as little as three hours of exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day, a woman can begin to lower her risk of breast cancer. This doesn’t require going to a gym either. Power walking is more than sufficient!!

Does Smoking cause breast cancer? Smoking is a confirmed risk factor for many types of cancer. Recent research in the last year (2012) has confirmed that smoking is a contributing risk factor for developing breast cancer. Additionally, second hand smoke is also a risk factor for cancer. So if you are a smoker, help yourself in a significant way and join a smoking cessation program to help you stop. The day you stop smoking the healing can begin and each week in which you are smoke-free, you give yourself increasing advantages for a healthier life. Smoking also directly contributes to heart and other lung diseases, too.

Can a healthy diet help to prevent breast cancer? A nutritious, low-fat diet (30 grams or less) with plenty of fruits and green and orange vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. A high-fat diet increases the risk because fat triggers estrogen production that can fuel tumor growth.

Can drinking alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer? Moderation is key, for a plethora of reasons! One drink per day has been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. Having more than one drink per day has shown to be a more significant risk factor, and the alcohol content doesn’t seem to matter: wine, beer or a mixed drink. Alcohol also increases estrogen in your bloodstream.

Although we know that more than one drink per day increases risks, to date there are no studies that demonstrate directly that the more a person drinks, the greater their risk for cancer. And in some cases, drinking one glass of wine a day can offer heart-health benefit. If you drink alcohol, this is an important topic to discuss with your doctor so that you will know what limits are best for you to observe.

Is there a link between HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and breast cancer? Yes, there is. HRT was added to the carcinogenic list be the American Cancer Society in the early 2000’s. It is recommended that women with known risks not be placed on HRT to control menopausal symptoms. They should instead seek other safer alternatives. However, you should discuss with your physician, because many women are perfectly safe on a low dose HRT if they do not have other risk factors.

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What kind of impact does stress have on breast cancer? In 2013, some research studies have shown that factors such as traumatic events and losses can alter immune system functions, and when immune functions are altered cancer cells may have an opportunity to get themselves established within one’s body. What has been shown is that it is not the fact that a major life crisis has occurred but instead how the individual reacted to this event and coped (or did not cope). Therefore, identifying ways to keep your stress level in check is wise. Exercise, massage treatments, relaxing getaways even if its for only a few hours. Consult with your clergy or physician when coping just seems out of reach and is impacting your daily life in a negative way.

If you are at risk for breast cancer, be sure to do your monthly exams and never put off your yearly mammograms! They are very sensitive and can detect the smallest of cancer! Early detection saves lives!! For all our dear friends that are and have successfully battled breast cancer and to the ones we have lost, WE MUST FIGHT THIS DISEASE!



• Information source: National Breast Cancer Foundation/Check out the website for great resources and share groups!