When asked about the possibilities for women living with breast cancer today, Ochsner oncologist Dr. Jay Brooks gave New Orleans Living some encouraging answers.
First, he asserts that 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer today can preserve their breasts if they wish to. Often in the past, driving distances from radiation facilities and the intense side effects of chemotherapy led women to opt for mastectomies; however, new radiation methods involving abbreviated, more-intense treatments that require less office visits and new drugs to control the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy have made these treatment options much less disruptive to patients’ lives.
He also advises that—aside from receiving proper medical treatment—exercise, yoga, and any other healthful practices that allow patients to have a better frame of mind are incredibly helpful in coping with the emotional effects of cancer. Exercise has another added benefit for cancer survivors: Dr. Brooks reports that the single best way for a woman to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning is to lose weight and keep it off. Women who are overweight produce much more estrogen than women who maintain healthy weight ranges. Because 50 to 60 percent of all cancers in women depend on estrogen production for growth and advancement, weight management is essential in preventing breast cancer’s reoccurrence.
Dr. Brooks points out that when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, her life changes forever. From that day forward, she will always wonder about cancer. But, he posits, while it’s important to acknowledge this fact, it’s also important to remember that the death rate from cancer in this country has plummeted because of early detection and better treatment. The vast majority of women diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in its early stages will never be bothered with it again.