Women with breast cancer stand a good chance of beating the disease

Overall, 75% of women with breast cancer remain cancer-free five years after diagnosis. Among women whose cancer is detected at an early stage and treated promptly, the survival rate during the same amount of time rises to as high as 95%.

Fortunately, you have many effective treatment options, mainly surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy. You and your doctor will select therapies aimed at reducing or wiping out all cancer cells. Your doctor will also help you to manage the side effects of woman breast cancer treatments. Long-term, your doctor will be monitoring your health and checking for any recurrence of cancer for several years.


Women with breast cancer stand a good chance of beating the disease

Join the 40-plus mammogram club. As soon as you celebrate your fortieth birthday, make yearly mammograms a part of your life. Regular mammograms allow breast cancers to be detected at earlier stages when they are smaller and easier to treat.

Get an expert exam. In addition to monthly self-exams, make sure you get a professional breast exam once a year. Your OB/GYN or other trained health provider will usually do this during your annual checkup. Make sure she does — and call to schedule your appointment today.

Eat a low-fat diet. In countries where a low-fat diet is the norm, such as Japan, breast cancer rates are below average. For the potential protection it offers, try following a diet that contains 20% fat or less.

Don’t panic. If you find a lump in one of your breasts, don’t automatically assume the worst. The vast majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. Make a mental note of the location of the lump and the day you found it — then make an appointment with your doctor to ease your mind with an expert opinion.

Ask another expert. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, be sure to get a second opinion before deciding on treatment. For some women, breast-sparing surgery may be as effective as mastectomy. You may also want to learn about reconstructive surgery options.

Get the best mammogram you can. Don’t wear cream, powder, or deodorant under your arms on the day of your mammogram appointment. They may interfere with the quality of your X-ray results.

When in need, get some support. If you — or a friend or family member — has been diagnosed with breast cancer, don’t go it alone. Support groups ease the emotional pain of dealing with cancer, and research shows they boost the chances of recovery for many women. To find a support group near you, call a local major hospital breast center or psychiatric department, or get in touch with the American Cancer Society to ask about groups they sponsor.

Be a bosom buddy. The next time you have lunch with your mom, sister, or best friend, bring up the subject of breast self-exams. Remind her of how important it is to do one monthly — let her know her health may depend on it.

Eat a rainbow of colors. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits contain substances called antioxidants that help shield your body’s cells from free-radical damage that can lead to cancer. Be good to yourself — indulge in fresh produce every day.

Have a heart-to-heart. Sit down with your mom, sister, aunt, or grandmother and chat about your family’s health history — specifically, whether anyone has ever had breast, colon, uterine, or ovarian cancer. A close relative with any of these diseases means your risk of developing breast cancer may be above average.

Do your BSE in the shower. Hang a shower card where you’ll see it every day. Then use the detailed instructions to perform a thorough breast self-exam (BSE) once a month, ideally during the week following your period (your breasts are easiest to examine then).