Breast Cancer: Gaining Control

Patricia Joseph, MD, FACS, Director of Breast and Women’s Health Services
at Nyack Hospital shares information on breast cancer –
reducing the risk and improving treatments.

Control – let’s face it, we all want control over things when possible.  Why not control over your health?  For women, specifically breast health.  April is recognized as National Cancer Control Month, so now is a perfect time to learn some important steps to take to reduce the risk of breast cancer, or to improve the chances of successful treatment.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. Death rates from breast cancer have been decreasing in recent years. Experts believe the decline is due to earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as advances in treatment. But some groups of women appear to be at increased risk. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found among women ages 25 to 39, cases of breast cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body have increased.

The good news is that if breast cancer is caught in an early stage, before it spreads and begins to cause symptoms, the chances for a successful treatment are greatly increased. To catch breast cancer at its earliest stages, women should have yearly mammograms starting at age 40.

Treatment for breast cancer can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy, which involve drugs that specifically target genetic changes in cells that cause cancer. Targeted drugs often have different and less severe side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs.

A new diagnostic test called Oncotype DX assesses the tumor tissue before treatment is started and estimates the likelihood that breast cancer will return after treatment. Doctors can use the test to help determine whether a woman should receive chemotherapy and/or hormonal treatments, and devise a treatment plan that is specific to each woman’s cancer.

Keeping your weight under control and engaging in regular exercise may help protect against breast cancer. Many studies have found being overweight or obese are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause. Being overweight also has been linked with a higher risk of recurrence of the most common type of breast cancer.
Research has also shown that exercise can reduce breast cancer risk. One study found as little as 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours a week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. The American Cancer Society recommends 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

By going for regular screening and taking steps to control your weight and get regular exercise, you can help take control of your breast cancer risk.

For more information on the services offered at the Breast Center at Nyack Hospital, please visit:

About Nyack Hospital
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.