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Five ways you can fight breast cancer

Aside from skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, with one in eight women impacted each year.

Advancements in screening and therapies have made breast cancer one of the most treatable cancers. If diagnosed, follow these tips to help fight the disease.

1. Establish a treatment team

Breast cancer treatment crosses multiple disciplines and usually includes a surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. Finding the right clinicians is the first step. Collaboration among your team is the key to beating the disease.

2. Ask for help

Having breast cancer is stressful enough. It impacts not only the patient, but also the entire family. A support system is very helpful. This can include individual or family counseling from a mental health professional or support groups.

3. Eat healthy and exercise

Studies have demonstrated that patients who are physically active and maintain an ideal body weight have better outcomes. Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per week may increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Dieticians and nutritionists may be very helpful to plan a healthy diet. Exercise programs specifically designed for cancer survivors can also help to reduce recurrence.

4. Vitamins are drugs, too

Tell your health care providers about ALL vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Some vitamins may interact with breast cancer treatments in a harmful way. Some herbal supplements may actually have estrogen-like activity and could be detrimental. It is important to discuss possible interactions with your doctors.

5. Learn about genetic testing

BRCA 1 and 2 are no longer the only genes associated with high breast cancer risk. The majority of breast cancers are not related to inherited high-cancer risk syndromes. But if you have one of these syndromes, it may change your treatment. There are guidelines on who needs genetic testing based on your personal and family history.

Lora Weiselberg, MD, is a hematologist/oncologist at Northwell Health and is chief of breast cancer services at the Monter Cancer Center. She's an associate professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. Her clinical and academic focus has been on cancer chemprevention and breast cancer treatment. She has served as a principal investigator for the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project for Northwell in both their breast cancer prevention trials, numerous breast cancer treatment trials and in the colon polyp prevention trial.

"Finding the right clinicians is the first step. Collaboration among your team is the key to beating the disease."
— Lora Weiselberg, MD
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