The Journey from Breast Cancer Patient to Survivor

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, take comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. But more importantly, know that you have powerful allies dedicated to helping you become a breast cancer survivor.  Today, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. And USMD Center for Breast Care is committed to adding many more to the ranks—especially YOU.

The center offers a complete line of breast health services under one roof ranging from screen and diagnostic mammograms to surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, genetics counseling and reconstruction.  More importantly, women have access to a Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator and support groups.   The Breast Cancer Navigator is a trusted guide who works one-on-one with each of our patients to help them make informed decisions and connect with available resources every step of the way on their journey from breast cancer patient to breast cancer survivor.  

This warm, personal approach plays an important role as physicians and staff members strive to empower each patient. “I spend a lot of time counseling all of my breast cancer patients,” says C.K. Wang, M.D., a medical oncologist at USMD Center for Breast Care. “In addition to medical treatments, lifestyle choices are very important following a cancer diagnosis. There is a lot you can do to strengthen your body to fight cancer and help prevent recurrence after remission.”

What does Dr. Wang tell his breast cancer patients?

  • Eat healthy. A low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sugar and low-salt diet made up of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (at least nine servings per day), whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein such as fish, poultry or beans is best. Limit your consumption of red meat, and if you do eat red meat, make sure it is a lean cut that hasn’t been charred. “You don’t need to follow an extreme diet,” Dr. Wang says. “Use a common sense approach when it comes to food selection and serving sizes.”
  • Maintain a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI). “Studies show a strong connection between a woman’s BMI and breast cancer,” says Dr. Wang. “Women who have a BMI that is higher than normal have an increased risk for breast cancer—especially postmenopausal women.” After menopause, estrogen hormones are made in other areas of the body—mainly in fatty tissue. Too much estrogen can fuel the growth of breast cancer tumors—especially tumors that are estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) positive. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight by your height. Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. Individuals with a BMI that falls between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity. Research studies show women who are 20 pounds or more overweight not only face a greater risk of their cancer recurring, they have a poorer prognosis and higher mortality. 
  • Exercise regularly. There is a lot of evidence that suggests regular exercise lowers the risk of breast cancer about 20 percent and helps increase survival among breast cancer survivors. “Women should exercise a minimum of 40 to 45 minutes three times a week,” says Dr. Wang. “It should be vigorous enough to break a sweat and make it difficult to carry on a full conversation.” Walking at a brisk pace is a good way to stay strong. Strength training is a good idea, too.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Research shows that women who drink two to three alcoholic beverages per day have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer than non-drinkers. In fact, just one alcoholic drink each day increases the risk for breast cancer by seven percent.
  • Don’t smoke.   Smokers have a higher risk for developing many kinds of cancer including lung, head and neck, bladder and pancreas. More importantly, recent studies, including one published on February 28, 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, show that smoking may increase one’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer by up to 24%.  As a breast cancer patient, you don’t want to engage in any behavior that can damage healthy cells in your body.      

Dr. Wang advises breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors to avoid extreme diets, lifestyle changes or products that promise or boast unsubstantiated results. “There are a number of products and programs that exploit the fear in breast cancer patients and survivors alike,” he says. “They are costly and they may actually be detrimental—increasing side effects or reducing the efficacy of your prescribed breast cancer treatments.”

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the caring physicians and staff at USMD Center for Breast Care will do everything in their power to help you overcome the disease. Please call 888.444.USMD for a FREE physician referral.   

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