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October 10 , 2018
How Hormones Affect Breast Cancer

As a woman, if you were asked to name one of your biggest health fears, there is a good chance breast cancer would top your list. Public health campaigns have for some time now highlighted this issue and it IS a real threat. Studies show that 1 in 7 women are at risk of it.

Yet, when we talk about this fast-spreading disease, we are more concerned about detection (mammograms) and treatment (mastectomies) and rarely about prevention. Are we also aware of the relationship between your body producing hormones and breast cancer?

The Power of Knowledge (And Reduction of Fear)

As it is often said, ‘knowledge is power’ and in this case ‘the power to try and prevent breast cancer’.

To begin with, it is crucial to recognize the link between elevated hormone levels and ill health. This is especially true for Estrogen, the female hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle. However, Estrogen it appears, feeds breast cancer. And there seems to be plenty of scientific evidence to prove it.

Research done by Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School on blood samples taken from the ongoing Nurses Health Study, suggests a strong link between hormonal imbalance and breast cancer.

Breast cancer and its symptoms

While it is true that breast cancer can come with any number of symptoms, following are the most common.

  • A noticeable lump or an area of thickened tissue, in one or both breasts.
  • A sudden change in the size or shape or appearance of one or both the breasts. This includes the nipples appearing sunken into the breasts or the skin becoming dimpled.
  • Viscous discharge from one or both nipples, which may often be streaked with blood.
  • The area of the nipples developing rashes.
  • Swelling or inflammation in the armpit area.

The Hormone Story

Most breast cancers are NOT genetic

Only five percent of breast cancers are genetic.

Although the exact causes of breast cancer aren’t fully understood, we do know of factors that increase the risks for women. Among these are age, a family history of the illness and excessive use of alcohol.

But the big one is Estrogen!

The area of the lobules, where milk is produced or where it travels to the nipples is the one more prone to cancerous cells. These cells might then spread to surrounding tissue and eventually migrate to other parts of the body.

In a lot of cases, it is Estrogen that fuels this growth, making most breast cancers – Estrogen Receptor Positive. These will only respond to treatments known as “endocrine therapies”.

Hormonal Therapy

Also known as Anit-estrogen therapy, this treatment directly targets estrogen, when the type of cancer is hormone receptor positive.

It is used most often after surgery to help reduce the risk of a relapse. The treatment is administered for at least 5 years.

With 2 out of 3 breast cancer cases being Estrogen Receptor Positive, Hormonal Therapy can be used for a variety of functions:

  • It substantially lowers the risk of a relapse
  • It helps lower the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in women who might otherwise be at high risk
  • When administered alongside the primary treatment, it helps slow the spread of cancerous tissue to other parts of the body
  • It treats the cancer by lowering the amount of Estrogen in the body and blocking its functions

Prevention is better than cure

Even though the prevention of breast cancer, at the moment, is not an exact science, a healthy diet with lots of fibre and extremely low intakes of saturated fats and alcohol, coupled with regular exercise seems to help.

Don’t wait to get in touch with one of our expert endocrinologists in Bangalore/Hyderabad before it is too late. Stay Alert, Stay Safe.