As we approach breast cancer awareness month this October, we will again be flooded with pink ribbons and awareness walks. But breast cancer isn't the only condition that can affect the breasts. That's why it's important for women and men to get to know their breasts so they can easily notice changes. I received a question about one of these conditions from a viewer_
Hi Dr. Coomer,
I am 52 years old and after having my yearly mammogram, I was called back for additional films where they found micro-calcifications in my right breast. It was biopsied and came back negative for cancer, but shows atypical ductal hyperplasia. My doctor says I must have a surgery procedure to remove the surrounding breast tissue so it can be evaluated for any cancer cells. I would very much like your opinion on this.
Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia
Atypical ductal hyperplasia is a precursor to breast cancer. Once you've been diagnosed with it - you're four times more likely to get breast cancer over your lifetime in the area of the lesion. With atypical ductal hyperplasia, precancerous cells grow in the duct of the breast. There are no symptoms or signs associated with it, so it can be difficult to detect. Mammography is usually the best way to find this condition, and it's most common in women in their 40s and 50s. I agree with your doctor, this must be removed. If this lesion turns into cancer, it would require surgery and potentially chemotherapy and radiation. You should get it removed now and try to avoid that scenario.
Preventing Breast Cancer
To cut your risk even more, your doctor can prescribe medications. Tamoxifen is often prescribed because it helps to block estrogen which causes cancer. This pill is the first FDA approved selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM.) Like with any drug there are side effects. Those can include: blood clots, heart disease, uterine cancer, cataracts and menopause-like symptoms. Talk to your doctor about possibly taking this drug to help prevent breast cancer. Diet and exercise will also help to ward off this disease. Adopt a Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3s like fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Antioxidants are also important. You can get those from a variety of foods like berries, beans and apples. Also, avoid red meat and eat lots of whole grains. And get moving - it doesn't matter what you do, just get your heart rate pumping. These are simple ways to help prevent breast cancer.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery & Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com