Month: February 2017

Early Detection and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Two hands with a pink ribbon to represent breast cancer awareness

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2017. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, and while it is sometimes found after symptoms appear, many women with breast cancer do not exhibit any symptoms, which is why breast cancer screening is important.

Benefits of Early Detection

Breast cancer that is found early is easier to treat successfully and the best way to find it early (should it exist) is to get screening exams regularly. It is also important to perform self breast examinations and pay attention to any changes in the breasts. Any unusual changes should be reported to your doctor right away.

The point of a screening test is to find potential breast cancer before it causes symptoms, like a lump. Once clear symptoms appear, it is much more likely that the cancer is at a more advanced stage and has potentially spread, which makes it harder to treat successfully.


mammogramThe most common breast cancer screening test used for early detection is a mammogram, which is a low-dose x-ray of the breast that looks for changes in tissue that could indicate breast cancer. There are two types of mammograms, a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram.

A screening mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in women who do not have any breast problems or symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram is a mammogram that is used to look at the breast of a woman who has a breast change or problem.

Mammograms can identify masses and calcifications in breast tissue that could indicate cancer. They can’t actually prove that an abnormal area is cancer, however.

Breast Ultrasound

If there is an abnormal finding on a mammogram, a breast ultrasound is often the next step. An ultrasound is useful for looking at a breast change seen on a mammogram, as well as other breast changes, such as those that may be felt but not seen on a mammogram. If a mass is felt or seen on a mammogram, an ultrasound can be used to determine if it is a fluid-filled cyst (not cancer) or a solid mass.

Biopsy and Diagnosis

When a mammogram and breast ultrasound indicate the presence of POTENTIAL cancer, a biopsy is the next step. During a biopsy, which may be done with a needle or an incision, a surgeon removes cells from the suspicious area to determine whether the cells are cancerous.

Whether or not a biopsy confirms a cancer diagnosis, remember that you could get a second opinion. It may mean another biopsy but a second opinion can be helpful when you’re having difficulty with a diagnosis or non-diagnosis.

After A Breast Cancer Diagnosis – Breast MRI Scans

While a screening MRI may be recommended for certain women with a particularly high risk for breast cancer, breast MRIs are typically used for women who have already been diagnosed to help measure the cancer’s size and look for other breast tumors (in the diagnosed breast and in the other). Breast MRI scans are not recommended as a screening test for the average woman because they tend to report more false positives (find something that isn’t actually cancer), which could lead to unneeded tests and biopsies.

Understanding Your Breast Cancer Risk

Some doctors are more aggressive in their breast cancer screening recommendations than others. For a woman with a high risk of breast cancer, this can be very helpful, but perhaps not so much for a woman with a low or average risk. Being well-informed of your own breast cancer risk can help you work with your doctor to set-up an appropriate screening schedule that does not subject you to unnecessary tests. To find out whether you have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, order our Women’s Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Test today!

Eat These Foods to Boost Immunity

An image of a variety of mushrooms

It’s flu and cold season, hooray (insert sarcasm)!  

Illness has the power to throw a wrench into the gears of our routines, and it is especially dangerous for cancer patients who have compromised immune systems. A simple cold is not so simple when you have cancer. It is important for all of us to help keep our immune systems in tip-top shape and these immune-boosting foods can help!

Smoked garlic1. Garlic

We can’t praise garlic enough! A relative of the onion, garlic contains allicin, which fights bacteria and infection. In a British study, researchers gave 146 people either garlic extract or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those who were given the garlic were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Additionally, other studies have suggested that eating upwards of six garlic cloves per week results in a 30 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and a whopping 50 percent reduced risk of stomach cancer. Can’t go wrong with garlic! Unless you’re a vampire…

2. Yogurt

Probiotics, the “live active cultures” found in yogurt and other cultured dairy products like kefir, are healthy bacteria that keep the intestinal tract and gut free of disease-causing germs. According to a Swedish study of 181 factory workers, those who drank a supplement of Lactobacillus reuteri (a probiotic that seems to stimulate white blood cells) every day over the course of the 80-day study took 33 percent fewer sick days than employees who took a placebo.

3. Tea

According to a Harvard study, people who drank black tea five times per day for two weeks had 10 times the amount of virus-fighting interferon in their blood than those who drank a placebo hot drink, thanks to the amino acid L-theanine.

4. Barley and Oats

An adequate amount of fiber is important for a healthy body and these grains contain a particular type of fiber, beta-glucan, which has antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities more potent than echinacea.

5. Shellfish

Shellfish like lobsters, oysters, clams, and crabs are rich in selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokine proteins. These proteins, in turn, help clear flu viruses out of the body. When you do eat shellfish, however, please make sure they are purchased from a reputable source (high-quality grocery store or restaurant). Improperly refrigerated shellfish can lead to food poisoning.

6. Chicken Soup

Yes, the quintessential “I don’t feel well” food, chicken soup has immune-boosting benefits. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine (according to University of Nebraska researchers). Additionally, the salty broth thins mucus much in the same way cough medicines do AND added spices such as garlic (we love garlic!) give the soup even immune-boosting power.

7. Beef

Even a mild zinc deficiency can increase a person’s risk of infection. Zinc is an essential mineral for the development of white blood cells and beef is one of the best sources of it.

8. Mushrooms

According to Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, Director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, D.C., mushrooms increase the activity and production of white blood cells, making them more aggressive.

9. Sweet Potato

Did you know that your skin is one of the first lines of defense against viruses, bacteria, and other undesirable substances? To keep your skin healthy, you need the appropriate amount of vitamin A, which you can get from beta-carotene-containing foods such as sweet potatoes and carrots.

Eating Your Way to Good Health

By maintaining a healthy diet, you will naturally boost your immune system, but it is important to remember that a healthy diet does not necessarily mean an exclusionary one. When you start cutting out certain foods, you cut out the nutrients too, so be careful to find new sources of those nutrients or your health will suffer.

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