Wellness Wednesday: The Dangers of UV Exposure

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, so Mercy Health System encourages you to be safe in the sun.

blazinghotsunExposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age.

Every year, there are 63,000 new cases of and 9,000 deaths from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. A new CDC study shows that the majority of Americans are not using sunscreen regularly to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

In fact, fewer than 15% of men and fewer than 30% of women reported using sunscreen regularly on their face and other exposed skin when outside for more than 1 hour. Many women report that they regularly use sunscreen on their faces but not on other exposed skin.


Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Yet most skin cancers can be prevented.


What are your family’s risks from exposure to powerful UV rays? Consider these facts and statistics.

The Dangers of UV Exposure

  • You can sunburn even on a cloudy day.
  • On average, children get 3 times more exposure than adults.
  • Concrete, sand, water and snow reflect 85% to 90% of the sun’s UV rays.
  • Depletion of Earth’s ozone continues to increase your exposure to UV rays.

Skin Cancer

  • In some parts of the world, melanoma is increasing at rates faster than any other cancer.
  • More than 1.2 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the US.
  • Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills one person every hour.
  • One blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

Visit the American Cancer Society website and take their sun safety quiz to see how much you know about staying safe in the sun.

Source: www.sunsafetyalliance.org


More Information:

Protect Your Family from Skin Cancer

Suncreen: The Burning Facts

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens

NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure

Wellness Wednesday: Eighty by 2018

Mercy Health System has joined with more than 1,000 organizations who have pledged to work together to increase the nation’s colorectal cancer screening rates and embrace the goal of reaching 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

eightyby201880% by 2018 was developed through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) initiative with the goal of screening 80% of those aged 50 and older for colorectal cancer by the year 2018. The NCCRT was co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How did the NCCRT settle on the ambitious goal of 80% by 2018?

GetTestedIn 2013, the member organizations of the NCCRT were challenged to develop a goal to advance colorectal cancer screening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already had an 80% goal for its Colorectal Cancer Control Program. Massachusetts, the first state to have health reform, was already at 76%. And most importantly, college graduates are already over 80% screening rate.

How Colorectal Cancer Survivors Can Help

As a cancer survivor or family member, the most important thing you can do to support 80% by 2018 is to share your story. You have the power to make screening relevant and personal.

People who have not been screened for colorectal cancer are much less likely to have had a close friend or family member with cancer than those who have been screened. Those who have not gotten screened don’t really understand the significance of the disease or think that they are at risk.

When survivors share personal stories, it helps put a face on colorectal cancer and conveys the necessity for screening.


If we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 fewer people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 203,000 lives will be saved by 2030.


eightyby2018_emblem-01

Progress is Being Made

Colorectal cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. in the last decade among adults 50 and older. In the simplest terms, this means people aren’t developing colorectal cancer at the same high rate as in the past, because more people are getting screened.

There’s Still Work to Do

While colorectal cancer incidence rates have dropped , it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Across the country, approximately 1 in 3 adults, around 23 million people aged 50 and 75 years old are not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended. Within the Mercy Health System service area alone, 33% of adults have not received colorectal screenings in the past 10 years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Information

NCCR: 80% by 2018

Colorectal Cancer Screening Fact Sheet

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Vital Signs: Colorectal Cancer Tests Save Lives

Wellness Wednesday: Colorectal Cancer Screenings Save Lives

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about it; but colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If you’re 50 years old or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened.

AA couple bicyclesColorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, among cancers that affect both men and women, in the U.S. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.


About 1 in 3 adults between 50 and 75 years old–about 23 million people–are not getting tested as recommended.


What You Can Do

  • If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer. Screenings help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

Fast Factsccs_ads_300x250_final2

  • Risk increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older.
  • Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include—
    • Blood in or on the stool.
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
    • Losing weight and you don’t know why.
    • These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
  • Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.

Screenings Tests

There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.

  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
  • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years, with FOBT every three years).

eightyby2018

Mercy Health System has joined with more than 1,000 organizations who have pledged to work together to increase the nation’s colorectal cancer screening rates and embrace the goal of reaching 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

80% by 2018 was developed through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCR) initiative with the goal of screening 80% of those aged 50 and older for colorectal cancer by the year 2018. The NCCR was co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


If we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 fewer people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 203,000 lives will be saved by 2030.


eightyby2018_emblem-01
Across the country, approximately 1 in 3 adults, around 23 million people aged 50 and 75 years old are not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended. Within the Mercy Health System service area alone, 33% of adults have not received colorectal screenings in the past 10 years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information

NCCR: 80% by 2018

Colorectal Cancer Screening Fact Sheet

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Vital Signs: Colorectal Cancer Tests Save Lives

Wellness Wednesday: Finding Cervical Cancer Early

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about cervical cancer; but we should. Because it is highly preventable and when found early, it is also one of the most treatable cancer types.

Multiracial group of mature woman at fitness centerMore than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women die. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix—the lower part of the uterus. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer.

Although cervical cancers start from cells with pre-cancerous changes, only some will develop into cancer. It usually takes several years for cervical pre-cancer to change to cervical cancer, but it also can happen in less than a year. Cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early—when it is in its most curable stage.

The American Cancer Society′s estimates for cervical cancer in the U.S. for 2017 are:

  • About 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.
  • About 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer.

Risk Factors

Friends having funThere are many risk factors which may increase the odds of developing cervical cancer. Some of these include:

Screening Recommendations

The American Cancer Society recommends that women follow these guidelines to help find cervical cancer early. Following these guidelines can also find pre-cancers, which can be treated to keep cervical cancer from forming.

  • Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group (it may be used as a part of follow-up for an abnormal Pap test).
  • Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This should continue until age 65.
  • Another reasonable option for women 30 to 65 is to get tested every 3 years with just the Pap test.

Sources: NCCC, American Cancer Society


More Information

MHS Health Library: Cervical Cancer

NCCC Cervical Cancer

CDC Cervical Cancer

American Cancer Society Cervical Cancer Guide

Wellness Wednesday: Make Lifesaving a Habit

NBDM-logocolor9.jpgJanuary is National Blood Donor Month and severe weather has plagued some parts of the country, resulting in the American Red Cross issuing an emergency call for blood and platelet donations.

To be eligible to donate, people have to be age 17 or older (16-year-olds can donate with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health. Donors age 18 and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Why do we need to have so much blood on hand?

The Red Cross must collect nearly 14,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide and once collected it takes nearly 48 hours before a donation is available for transfusion.

About one in seven people entering a hospital will need blood. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all require blood to save their lives. And in an emergency that blood supply must be available immediately.

During times of severe weather, those supplies run low because blood drives are often cancelled and/or donors are unable to make it in to donate. Right now, Red Cross blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. Hectic holiday schedules contributed to about 37,000 fewer donations in November and December than what was needed. Snowstorms and severe weather have also impacted donations. Nearly 100 blood drives were forced to cancel in December, resulting in more than 3,100 blood donations going uncollected.

Why are platelet donors in such high demand?

Transplant and trauma patients, as well as patients undergoing open-heart surgery may require platelet transfusions. However, the majority of platelets are used by cancer patients. Platelets only have a shelf life of five days, with two days needed for testing.

What happens to donated blood?

One pint of blood is collected from each donor. The donation is stored in iced coolers until it is transported to a Red Cross center, where it is scanned into a computer database. The blood is then spun in centrifuges to separate the transfusable components—red cells, platelets, and plasma.

A dozen tests are performed on each unit of donated blood—to establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases. Units suitable for transfusion are labeled and stored.

  • Red Cells are stored in refrigerators at 6ºC for up to 42 days
  • Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days
  • Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year

Blood Types

BloodTypesThere are four major blood groups determined by the presence or absence of two antigens —A and B—on the surface of red blood cells:

  • Group A – has only the A antigen on red cells (and B antibody in the plasma)
  • Group B – has only the B antigen on red cells (and A antibody in the plasma)
  • Group AB – has both A and B antigens on red cells (but neither A nor B antibody in the plasma)
  • Group O – has neither A nor B antigens on red cells (but both A and B antibody are in the plasma)

There are very specific ways in which blood types must be matched for a safe transfusion.

Universal red cell donors: Type O negative 

Universal plasma donors:  Type AB 

bloodtypes

Who discovered that there are different blood types?

Dr. Karl Landsteiner first identified the major human blood groups; A, B, and O in 1901.

How does my body replace the blood I donated?

Healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets.

Why do I have to wait 56 days to donate again?

The plasma from your donation is replaced within about 24 hours. Red cells need about four to six weeks for complete replacement. That’s why at least eight weeks are required between whole blood donations.

Facts about blood needs

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
  • Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Wellness Wednesday: Lung Cancer Awareness

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the U.S. It also has one of the lowest five-year survival rates of all cancer types.

lung_cancer_awarenessOne reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it is hard to find in its early stages. It may take years for the lung cancer to grow and there usually are no symptoms early on. By the time you start to notice symptoms, the cancer often has spread to other parts of the body.

When a person has lung cancer, they have abnormal cells that cluster together to form a tumor. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells grow out of control, destroying the healthy tissue. These types of tumors are called malignant tumors. When the cancer cells grow too fast, they prevent organs of the body from functioning properly.

There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. A third less common type of lung cancer is called carcinoid.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Small cell lung cancer is almost always associated with cigarette smoking and is usually treated with chemotherapy.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Non-small cell lung cancer makes up about 80 percent of lung cancer cases. This type of cancer usually grows and spreads to other parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer does. There are three different types NSCLC:

Adenocarcinoma: Often found in the outer area of the lung. It develops in the cells of epithelial tissues, which line the cavities and surfaces of the body and form glands.

Squamous cell carcinoma: Usually found in the center of the lung next to an air tube.

Large cell carcinoma: Can occur in any part of the lung and tends to grow and spread faster than the other cancers.

Carcinoid

Lung carcinoid tumors are uncommon and tend to grow slower than other types of lung cancers. Carcinoids are very rare, slow-growing and most commonly treated with surgery.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Mature woman blowing the seeds from dandelion in natureMany people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the disease is in its later stages. Because there are very few nerve endings in the lungs, a tumor could grow without causing pain or discomfort. When symptoms are present, they are different in each person, but may include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • A chronic cough or “smoker’s cough”
  • Hoarseness
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up blood

Some symptoms of lung cancer may not seem related to the lungs or breathing. These symptoms still be a sign of lung cancer because lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms in its earlier stages. This means some symptoms do not appear until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Bone pain or fractures
  • Blood clots

See your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms

What Causes Lung Cancer

Anyone can get lung cancer. Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung mutate or change. Various factors can cause this mutation to happen. Most often, this change in lung cells happens when people breathe in dangerous, toxic substances. Even if you were exposed to these substances many years ago, you are still at risk for lung cancer.

Smoking

QuitSmoking3Smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that are known to cause lung cancer. If you still smoke, quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your lung health.

Smokers are not the only ones affected by cigarette smoke. If you are a former smoker, your risk is decreased, but has not gone away completely—you can still get lung cancer. Nonsmokers also can be affected by smoking. Breathing in secondhand smoke puts you are risk for lung cancer or other illnesses.

Radon

Radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that exists naturally in soil. It comes up through the soil and enters buildings through small gaps and cracks. One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is subject to radon exposure. Exposure to radon combined with cigarette smoking seriously increases your lung cancer risk.

Hazardous Chemicals

Exposure to certain hazardous chemicals poses a lung cancer risk. Working with materials such as asbestos, uranium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and some petroleum products is especially dangerous. If you think you may be breathing in hazardous chemicals at your job, talk to your employer and your doctor to find out to protect yourself.

Genes

Genetic factors also may play a role in one’s chances of developing lung cancer. A family history of lung cancer may mean you are at a higher risk of getting the disease. If others in your family have or ever had lung cancer, it’s important to mention this to your doctor.

How Lung Cancer Is Diagnosed

Diagnosing lung cancer is different for each person. Your medical team chooses tests based on a number of factors, including your medical history, symptoms and a physical exam. Options may include diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRI and CT Scans or tissue sample biopsy.

How Lung Cancer Is Treated

The treatment for lung cancer depends on your lung cancer type, lung cancer stage and lung cancer treatment goals. Options may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, clinical trials and/or palliative care.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Lung Association and Mayo Clinic.


More Information:

American Lung Association Lung Cancer Fact Sheet

American Lung Association

 

Wellness Wednesday: Facing Pancreatic Cancer

Steve Jobs. Patrick Swayze. Michael Landon. Alan Rickman.

instagramshareablegraphicThese are just a few of the celebrities who have died from pancreatic cancer.

November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest major cancer among all Americans. The five-year survival rate after diagnosis is just 7%. The reason for the low survival rate is because it is hard to detect until it has already spread to other areas of the body.

What is the Pancreas?

You’ve heard of the pancreas. You probably know it’s important. You know it has something to do with digestion and you maybe even heard talk about it around the topic of diabetes.

17194But what is it and what does it do?

The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen. It is about six inches long and is shaped like a pear. It is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder. The pancreas is both an exocrine gland and endocrine gland and has two main functions—digestion and blood sugar regulation.

Exocrine glands are glands that produce and secrete substances by way of ducts. Examples include the salivary glands and sweat glands. The exocrine cells of the pancreas produce enzymes that help with digestion. When food enters the stomach, exocrine cells release the pancreatic enzymes into the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct carries these enzymes and other secretions, collectively called pancreatic juice. Both the main pancreatic duct and the common bile duct connect with the duodenum, where they aid with the digestion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

Endocrine glands are glands that produce and secrete substances directly into the blood rather than through a duct. Examples include the thyroid gland, pituitary gland and adrenal glands. The endocrine cells of the pancreas produce hormones, which are substances that control or regulate specific functions in the body. The two main pancreatic hormones are insulin and glucagon. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels while glucagon raises blood sugar levels. Together, these two main hormones work to maintain the proper level of sugar in the blood.

As you can imagine, if the pancreas is not functioning properly, it can cause a number of conditions including diabetes or hyper- and hypothyroidism.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

pancreaticcancerPancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells within the pancreas grow out of control and form a tumor. More than 95% of pancreatic cancers are classified as exocrine tumors. These tumors start in the exocrine cells. Within this category, the vast majority of tumors are adenocarcinomas. The following table describes the different types of pancreatic exocrine tumors. Click here to learn about types of exocrine tumors in the pancreas.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pancreatic NETs or PNETs) account for less than 5% of all pancreatic tumors. They may be benign or malignant and they tend to grow slower than exocrine tumors. They develop from the abnormal growth of endocrine cells in the pancreas. Steve Jobs was diagnosed with this type of tumor in 2004 and lived for another seven years.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are either functional (produce hormones) or nonfunctional (produce no hormones). The majority of PNETs are nonfunctional tumors.  Click here to learn about types of endocrine tumors in the pancreas.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

2016-10-31-1477940001-9190229-16warningsigns
Click to enlarge

The problem with diagnosing pancreatic cancer is that it is hard to find early. The pancreas is deep inside the body, so early tumors can’t be seen or felt by health care providers during routine physical exams. And patients often have no symptoms until the cancer has already spread to other organs.

Sometimes when a person has pancreatic cancer, the levels of certain proteins in the blood go up. These proteins, called tumor markers, can be detected with blood tests. But these proteins don’t always go up when a person has pancreatic cancer, and even if they do, the cancer is often already advanced by the time.

People with pancreatic cancer may show signs of jaundice—a yellowing of the eyes and skin—as one of their first symptoms. They may also begin to have pain in the abdomen or back. Cancers that start in the body or tail of the pancreas can grow fairly large and start to press on other nearby organs, causing pain. If the cancer blocks the bile duct, bile can build up in the gallbladder, making it larger. Sometimes a doctor can feel an enlarged gallbladder during a physical exam. It can also be seen on imaging tests. Other symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite and dark urine.

Having one or more of the symptoms below does not mean you have pancreatic cancer. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions. But if you notice something different or have several of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your physician.

Pancreatic Cancer Risks

Some people might be at increased risk of pancreatic cancer because of a family history of the disease (or a family history of certain other cancers). Sometimes this increased risk is due to a specific genetic syndrome. Some of the gene changes that increase pancreatic cancer risk can be tested for. Knowing if you are at increased risk can help you and your doctor decide if you should have tests to look for pancreatic cancer early, when it might be easier to treat. But determining whether you might be at increased risk is not simple.

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends that anyone thinking about genetic testing talk with a genetic counselor, nurse or doctor qualified to interpret and explain the test results before they proceed with testing. It’s important to understand what the tests can and can’t tell you, and what any results might mean, before deciding to be tested.

What Can You Do?

facebook-sharing-photoThere is no absolute way to prevent pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors such as family history can’t be controlled. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Limit alcohol intake

If you are worried about family risk factors or if you have some of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor. There is a very good chance that it is something else entirely. But a professional can look through your medical history and make recommendations as to next steps.

The only way to improve survival rates is to promote awareness, healthy living and regular health checkups, and to keep funding research into this disease.

Sources: American Cancer Society, NCI, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network


More Information:

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Know Your Pancreas [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Breast Cancer Facts and Figures

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Mercy Health System wants you to know the facts about breast cancer and understand that early detection is the key to survival.

Facts about Breast Cancer in the United States

  • BreastCancerOne in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.
  • Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

BreastCancer2A Global Burden

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization.

Good News about Breast Cancer Trends

In recent years, perhaps coinciding with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause, we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part to better due to screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.

Factors That Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

  • Being older when you first had your menstrual period.
  • Starting menopause at an earlier age.
  • Giving birth to more children, being younger at the birth of your first child, and breastfeeding your children.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

Factors That Increase Breast Cancer Risk

  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases.
  • Family history of breast cancer (on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family).
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
  • Dense breasts by mammogram.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Night-shift work.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Watch Mercy Health System′s 2016 Pink Glove Dance video and share with your friends!

Wellness Wednesday: There are Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

Many risk factors can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, but it is not yet known exactly how some of these risk factors cause cells to become cancerous. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.

breastcancereventNormal breast cells become cancerous because of changes in DNA. Some DNA changes are inherited. This means they are in every cell in your body and can dramatically increase the risk for developing certain cancers. They are responsible for many of the cancers that run in some families. But most DNA changes related to breast cancer are acquired in breast cells during a woman’s life rather than having been inherited.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing risk factors that you can control.

Body weight, physical activity and diet have all been linked to breast cancer, so these might be areas where you can take action. Read the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention to learn more.


“Controllable” Risk Factors

Drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is known to increase the risk of other cancers, too.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Being overweight or obese

Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Before menopause, most estrogen is made in the ovaries, and fat tissue makes only a small amount. After menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase your chance of getting breast cancer. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher blood insulin levels. Higher insulin levels have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life by balancing your food intake with physical activity and avoiding excessive weight gain.

Senior women exercising in the parkPhysical activity

Evidence is growing that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. But how much is needed to make a difference? In one study from the Women’s Health Initiative, as little as 1¼ to 2½ hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18 percent. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more.

To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.

Having children

Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall. Having multiple pregnancies and becoming pregnant at an early age reduces overall breast cancer risk  Still, the effect of pregnancy is different for different types of breast cancer.

Breastfeeding

Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it’s continued for 1½ to 2 years. The explanation for this possible effect may be that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles. Women who choose to breastfeed for at even the first several months may also get an added benefit of reducing their breast cancer risk.

Birth control

Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Once the pills are stopped, this risk seems to go back to normal over time.

Hormone therapy after menopause

Hormone therapy with estrogen (often combined with progesterone) has been used for many years to help relieve symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis. There are two main types of hormone therapy.

Combined hormone therapy (HT): Use of HT after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer. It may also increase the chances of dying from breast cancer. This increase in risk can be seen with as little as two (2) years of use. Combined HT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage. The decision to use HT should be made by a woman and her doctor after weighing the possible risks and benefits (including the severity of her menopausal symptoms), and considering her other risk factors for heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Estrogen therapy (ET): The use of estrogen alone after menopause does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer much, if at all. But when used long term (for more than 10 years), ET has been found to increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in some studies.


Uncontrollable Risk Factors

The main risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change: being a woman, getting older, and having certain gene changes. These make your risk of breast cancer higher. But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you are sure to get the disease.

istock_000006637453_largeBeing a woman

Men can have breast cancer; but this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men. This might be because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth.

Getting older

As you get older, your risk of breast cancer goes up. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.

Certain inherited genes

About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

Early menstruation or late menopause

Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating early (before age 12) or because they went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. The increase in risk may be due to a longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Having radiation to your chest

Women who as children or young adults were treated with radiation therapy to the chest for another cancer have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer. This varies with the patient’s age when they got radiation. And if you had chemotherapy with the radiation, it might have stopped ovarian hormone production for some time, which lowers the risk.


Conclusion

Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop breast cancer, while many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it’s hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed.

The most important thing is to know your body and ask your doctor about any changes you might notice. Do breast self exams and don′t forget to schedule a mammogram. Preventive screenings are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it is more easily and successfully treatable. Mammography can detect changes in breast tissue before you can even feel it.

The American Cancer Society released new recommendations* in 2015 for screening mammograms for women at average risk for breast cancer.

Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.

Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Mercy Health System offers free walk-in screening mammograms at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital each week. No appointment is necessary.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

breast-cancer-ribbonSr. Marie Lenahan Wellness Center
Women’s Imaging Suite
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

Medical Office Building
Radiology Registration
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Sources: American Cancer Society, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Leading organizations differ on their recommendations for when to begin screening for mammography. This information should be reviewed with your personal physician to determine when is the right time for you to begin a screening regimen. 


Watch Mercy Health System’s 2016 Pink Glove Dance to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!


More Information

What Is Breast Cancer Screening?
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Young Women
Breast Cancer Risk Factors Breast Cancer Risk Factors [breastcancer.org]
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Risk Factors Table

Wellness Wednesday: Early Detection Saves Lives

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early and studies show that finding breast cancer early saves lives.

Nurse Assisting Patient About To Have A MammogramDuring National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mercy Health System would like to encourage you to care for yourself, or the women in your life, by reminding you of the importance of regular screenings.

The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that women begin having annual mammograms starting at age 40*. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests beginning annual mammograms at age 50 and women between the ages of 40 and 49 should consult with their health professional about when she should have a mammogram.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital both provide free Walk-in Mammograms every week. No appointment is necessary. Just bring your insurance card, physician prescription and photo ID.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

breast-cancer-ribbonSr. Marie Lenahan Wellness Center
Women’s Imaging Suite
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

Medical Office Building
Radiology Registration
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

It is also recommended that women have a clinical breast exam every three years during their 20s and 30s and every year over the age of 40. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s.

There are certain circumstances under which you should consult your Primary Care Physician (PCP) before scheduling a mammogram. If you are pregnant or have been breastfeeding during the last six months, call your doctor and ask if a mammogram would be appropriate.

To find a Mercy Health physician, visit our website at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

* The American Cancer Society issued new guidelines for breast cancer screenings in October 2015. Read the CNN news report.


Watch Mercy Health System′s 2016 Pink Glove Dance video and share with your friends!


More Information:

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/screening.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/pdf/breastcancerfactsheet.pdf

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/

http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast