Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Safe for Breast Cancer Survivors? 

All types of cancers are accompanied by a nearly overwhelming list of stressors, and this may be even more true with breast cancer. Once the cancer itself has been faced and treated, there are additional emotionally charged issues to face. If one or both breasts have been removed, there is likely to be concern about altered appearance and questions about sexuality. This can also be true with removal of a lump that has left the breast misshapen. Since breast cancer can frequently strike younger women, there may be concern about having a family and how the cancer and treatment will affect that. One of the side effects of chemotherapy, for some women, is early menopause, which brings with it a whole other stress-filled list.

Breast cancer is a very personal disease and so are the decisions about what to do following treatment. Whether treatment included a double mastectomy or partial removal of tissue in only one breast, there is the question of reconstruction and all of the options available. One issue that should not be of concern is whether breast reconstruction surgery is safe for breast cancer survivors. Studies have shown that reconstruction does not cause breast cancer to come back. Plus, if the cancer does come back for another reason, reconstruction will not impede detection or cause problems with chemotherapy, radiation or other treatment.

Worry about the safety of reconstruction following cancer surgery aside, there are decisions to make. The first will be whether to have reconstruction surgery or not. Those who choose an alternate route will have the option of either using some form of breast form or prosthesis or simply “going flat”. With reconstruction surgery there may be the option to have the process started during the procedure to remove the breast or cancerous tissue, so it is important to consult with your surgeon well in advance.

Once the decision to have reconstruction is made, there will be many things to consider in order to decide what type will be best for you and your lifestyle. Some of the factors to consider when choosing between options include:

  • Immediate or delayed reconstruction
  • Implant or autologous (flap) reconstruction, which takes tissue from another area of the body to create a breast form
  • Overall health
  • Issues that might affect healing, such as smoking
  • Location of the cancer
  • Breast size
  • Extent of cancer surgery
  • Chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment programs and what stage they are in
  • The amount of tissue available for autologous reconstruction
  • Reconstructive surgery on one or both breasts
  • Importance of being able to match the look of the other breast
  • Cost and insurance coverage, especially if having surgery for unaffected breast
  • Recovery time
  • Effects on other parts of your body if tissue from there is used

Your surgeon will take these and other factors into consideration, explaining the potential benefits, risks and expectations, to help you make the choices that are best for you. These are very personal and individual decisions, and it will be important to take the time necessary to find the right options that work for you and your lifestyle.

Should People with Cancer Avoid Antioxidants?

Does it sometimes seem like the more we learn the less we know? That certainly appears to be the case when we look at the effects of antioxidants on cancer. For years, we have been hearing about the health-enhancing benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and one of the main rationales for that is because they contain antioxidants. These powerful substances protect our cells from unstable molecules known as free radicals, which are linked to cancer.

Free radicals have incomplete electron shells which are usually the result of exposure to something in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the medicines we take and the water we drink. Some of the more common contributors are fried foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants. In the body, this process occurs most often when oxygen molecules become “radicalized” and try to steal electrons from other molecules which can lead to DNA damage. Over time, unless checked, this can result in cancer. As part of the normal processes that take place within the cells, the bodies antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent them from reaching the level sufficient to create cancerous cells.

This is all good, right? Antioxidants were hailed as super heroes by the health gurus, and supplement makers rushed to fill the gap for those who do not regularly consume the recommended antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables. Even for those who didn’t naturally gravitate toward kale and spinach could appreciate something as vicious as cancer being held at bay by carrots and mangos.

So, the answer to “Should people with cancer avoid antioxidants?” should be an easy “no”, right? When it comes to cancer and, actually, with most things that have to do with disease and the human body, the answers are seldom easy and rarely clear-cut. Yes, the antioxidant properties found in beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamins C, E, and A can be very effective in counteracting free radical damage to the body’s DNA and, as a direct result, reduce the incidence of cancer. However, there have been studies over the past several decades that have indicated that antioxidants can actually accelerate cancer progression by short-circuiting one of the body’s own immune system responses to cells that have become malignant.

Dr. Martin Bergo, senior author of a Swedish study conducted on the effects of antioxidants on cancer tumors in mice wrote, “We found that antioxidants caused a threefold increase in the number of tumors, and caused tumors to become more aggressive. Antioxidants caused the mice to die twice as fast, and the effect was dose-dependent. If we gave a small dose, tumors grew a little. If we gave a high dose, tumors grew a lot.”

While supplementing the antioxidants that naturally occur in the body can help prevent cancer, the current research seems to indicate that the body’s immune system already has an intricate system in place to deal with precancerous cells. Flooding it with antioxidants when cancerous cells are already present can suppress the signals necessary to turn that system on which, in turn, allows these damaged cells to multiply.

Because of their wide-ranging health benefits, no one is recommending that we stop eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. They may very well prevent cancerous cells from ever taking hold. If, however, you have been diagnosed with cancer or are especially vulnerable, it would be a good idea to discuss this with your doctor. Medical research makes new discoveries every day. It is more important than ever to have regular check-ups and discuss current thinking with your healthcare professional.

For those who wish to learn more about antioxidants, the following list comes from the National Institutes of Health as posted on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources website:

Beta-carotene is found in many foods that are orange in color, including sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, and kale are also rich in beta-carotene.

Lutein, best known for its association with healthy eyes, is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale.

Lycopene is a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, and other foods. Estimates suggest 85 percent of American dietary intake of lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.

Selenium is a mineral, not an antioxidant nutrient. However, it is a component of antioxidant enzymes. Plant foods like rice and wheat are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries. The amount of selenium in soil, which varies by region, determines the amount of selenium in the foods grown in that soil. Animals that eat grains or plants grown in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. In the United States, meats and bread are common sources of dietary selenium. Brazil nuts also contain large quantities of selenium.

Vitamin A is found in three main forms: retinol (Vitamin A1), 3,4-didehydroretinol (Vitamin A2), and 3-hydroxy-retinol (Vitamin A3). Foods rich in vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks and mozzarella cheese.

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid, and can be found in high abundance in many fruits and vegetables and is also found in cereals, beef, poultry and fish.

Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is found in almonds, in many oils including wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean oils, and also found in mangos, nuts, broccoli and other foods.

If you would like to learn about what foods contain the most antioxidants, please watch the following video:

Is There a Breast Cancer Gene?   

If there is one thing that we have learned about cancer, it is that it is an extremely complex disease. The more research we do, the more we discover that there is a lot we do not know. We no longer hear much about finding a “cure for cancer”, because each type seems to have a different cause or combination of contributing factors, and treatments that may be effective for one are not for another.

Genetics has been one focus of cancer research for decades. This has been especially true for breast cancer research. The acronym for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes stands for breast (BR) cancer (CA).    To say that there is a particular gene responsible for breast cancer, however, is somewhat disingenuous.  BRCA genes do not cause breast cancer. Actually, their function is just the opposite: they are tumor suppressor genes. Properly functioning BRCA genes are assigned the role of repairing breakdowns in the DNA that can result in the uncontrolled growth of tumors and, ultimately, cancer.

The reason that BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have become known as breast cancer genes is that a small percentage of these become mutated and, when that happens, the risk factor of developing breast cancer dramatically increases. So far, there have been nearly 2,000 mutations identified in the BRCA2 gene, alone. Many of these have been linked to breast cancer, as well as other types of cancer, in both women and me. It is important to note that not everyone with a mutated BRCA gene will develop cancer, and other factors, including environmental exposures and lifestyle practices, also contribute to an individual’s risk.

Should Everyone Get Tested for BRCA Mutations?

As with other types of mutated genes, these can be passed from one generation to the next. Despite the fact that the survival rate for cancer is getting better all the time, it is still a frightening and dreaded disease. Some women, upon learning they have these mutations, choose to have preventive surgery to remove their breasts because they have such a strong belief that cancer is inevitable for them. This is why you see headlines and reports about women, like Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate, who voluntarily undergo double mastectomies even without evidence of cancer. Each tested positive for mutations in BRCA genes, and each had mother’s with cancer.

But, should everyone be tested? Normally, a BRCA gene test isn’t routinely performed unless there is likely to be increased risk based on personal or family history. Some factors that may ring alarm bells and prompt testing are:

  • A close relative, like a mother or sister, diagnosed with breast cancer, especially before age 50
  • Multiple breast cancers on the same side of the family, especially before age 50
  • Male breast cancer on either side of the family
  • Ovarian cancer in the family since the risk for both are closely related

Right now, somewhere in the range of 12% of women will develop breast cancer at some point in life. For those with genetic mutations, that risk is significantly higher. It is estimated that 45 – 65% of women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations will develop breast cancer before age 70. While these are alarming numbers that require consistent attention, the good news is that, with early detection, the vast majority can be successfully treated. That is true for those cases with BRCA mutations as well as those without.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

 Men never get breast cancer, right?

Wrong. Men not only get breast cancer, but, when they do, they are more likely to die from it than women are. The reason for the difference in mortality rate is largely because of the stigma that men feel about being diagnosed with a disease that is seen to be only for women. Cancer, of any kind, can be life-threatening, but, no matter who it strikes, one of the key factors in survival rates is early detection. The more advanced the disease is, the greater the odds against beating it. Men rarely pay attention unless there is a noticeably large lump. Unfortunately, by this time, it is more than likely to already be growing and possibly spreading.

The embarrassment of having a “woman’s disease” aside, there is far less attention paid to breast cancer in men. There is a reason that all of the awareness campaigns are in pink: roughly, the odds of breast cancer for women are 1 in 8, while for men, they are 1 in 1,000. Once diagnosed, the treatment and prognosis for men and women are basically the same. Bringing medical attention to breast cancer in men would increase early detection and save lives.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men

With age comes a greater risk for breast cancer for men and women. For men, most breast cancers occur between the ages of 60 and 70. Other factors that increase risk for men include:

  • Family History –family members, especially men, who have or have had breast cancer
  • Radiation – exposure to radiation, especially in the chest
  • Drug or Hormone Treatments – causing enlargement of the breast (gynecomastia)
  • Estrogen – environmental exposure, used to fatten beef cattle and in the pesticide DDT
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome – rare genetic condition in men that results in lower levels of androgens (male hormones) and higher levels of estrogen (female hormones), increasing the growth of breast tissue and risk of breast cancer
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver – increases estrogen level
  • Testicle Abnormalities – diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, injuries to the testicles or conditions like an undescended testicle

While there has been an effort to heighten awareness about male breast cancer, due to the relatively low incidence compared to women, it is unlikely that there will be general screening or a focus on mammograms or other types of testing. This makes individual self-awareness all the more important. Some of the more common signs for men to watch for are:

  • A lump or swelling in the breast, which is usually (but not always) painless
  • Painful nipple
  • An inverted or retracted nipple that turns inward
  • Discharge from the nipple, clear or bloody
  • Sores, redness or scaling on the nipple and areola, the small ring around the center of the nipple
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
  • Skin dimpling or puckering

For anyone diagnosed with cancer, early detection is crucial. According to the American Cancer Society, these are the statistics for 5-year survival rates for men:

Stage I 100%

Stage II 91%

Stage III 72%

Stage IV 20%

By some estimates, there is a gap of more than a year and a half between when the first symptom appears and diagnosis for men. That is simply too long.   

If you are wondering how you can prevent male breast cancer, please watch the following video:

What Really Is Adenosis In Breasts?

Adenosis is a benign or noncancerous condition that affects the breasts of women. In this condition, the milk-producing or lobules glands become enlarged. There are also more lobules glands than usual in women who have this condition. The condition can mostly affect women who are already suffering from fibrosis or cysts in their breasts. There are many other names that describe this condition such as tumoral adenosis, aggregate adenosis, and adenosis tumor. Although the word tumor is used to describe this condition, adenosis is not breast cancer. On the other hand, Sclerosing adenosis is an advanced condition where the enlarged lobules glands are distorted by scar tissues. This condition can be more painful compared to adenosis. This article provides information on what really is adenosis in breasts.

If the enlarged lobules glands are located close to each other, they may be felt as a large breast lump. In such cases, a breast examination might not be enough to diagnose if the condition is adenosis or breast cancer. Mineral deposits or calcifications can form in the breasts during adenosis, sclerosing adenosis, or breast cancer. These deposits can show up in a mammogram. But it may be difficult to tell these conditions apart. That is why a biopsy is essential to diagnose the right condition – whether it is adenosis or breast cancer. A small piece of tissue from the breast is removed and checked under the microscope in a biopsy.

Breast adenosis can easily affect young women between the ages of 20-40 years and a San Antonio estate planning attorney. On the other hand, the condition can affect postmenopausal women too – over 45-50 years of age. All racial and ethnic groups are affected alike in this condition. Overweight or obese women are at a higher risk of developing this condition compared to slim women. Women who are taking hormone replacement therapy or medications also have a higher risk for this condition. On the other hand, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and not breastfeeding the child are some of the other risk factors of this condition.

Women who suffer from this condition don’t require any treatments but need to be watched closely over time. Although adenosis is not found to increase one’s cancer risk, some studies have shown that women with sclerosing adenosis have a higher chance of developing breast cancer later on.

The aforementioned article provides information on what really is adenosis in breasts.

What Really Is Fibrosis And Cysts In The Breast?

Most of the breast lumps in women are caused by fibrosis or cysts. These are benign or non-cancerous changes that happen in the breast. It can affect the majority of women at some time in their lives. These conditions are most common in women between the ages of 25-40 years. But can affect women of any age. In fact, fibrosis and cysts can affect one breast or both breasts at the same time – and found in different parts of the breast. This article provides information on what really is fibrosis and cysts in the breast.

Fibrosis is a condition where you find a large amount of fibrous tissue concentrated in one region. Fibrous tissues are the same tissues that make ligaments and scars. The areas where fibrous tissue concentrate may feel firm or rubbery when touched. On the other hand, a cyst is a lump in the breast that moves when touched. They are tender to touch and fluid-filled most of the time. Cysts can be round or oval in shape. Although the condition can affect women of any age, they are more common in women in their 40s. Monthly hormone changes in the body cause these cysts to get bigger and painful. They are more noticeable just before a woman’s menstrual period.

Cyst forms when fluid fills inside the glands of the breast. They are categorized as Microcysts (too small to feel) and Macrocysts (large ones). Microcysts are found only when the tissue is observed under a microscope. On the other hand, macrocysts can be easily felt and could be as large as one to two inches.

Most of the time, these conditions are diagnosed based on their symptoms such as swelling, lumps, or tenderness on the breasts. You may also notice a clear or slightly cloudy nipple discharge at times. The symptoms tend to worsen just before the menstrual period begins. Fortunately, these conditions don’t increase one’s risk of breast cancer. But complex cysts can be a concern at times. There is a small chance that such cysts may contain cancerous cells or place the individual at risk later on. That is why you need to see a qualified healthcare provider to diagnose the condition early on.

Cysts and fibrosis lumps don’t need to be removed unless they are causing discomfort or contain cancerous cells. The fluid in the cysts can be removed with a thin hollow needle. Some doctors recommend painkillers during the menstruation period to subdue the pain of these conditions during that period.

The aforementioned article provides information on what really is fibrosis and cysts in the breast.


There are stereotypes about women getting older and having sagging breasts.

Many a comedian has made endless jokes about their aunt or grandmother having sagging breasts, where it has become something that is unavoidable among women – that every woman will go through it.

While it may not be universal, it is true that there are several factors that go into the condition, not just in terms of the condition happening, but also the severity of the condition.

The condition is medically called ptosis, and it is common among women, and there are several reasons or causes that go into it, and one factor has been debunked after being considered common-knowledge.

Breast sagging can occur in most but not all women, and it can come from fat and muscle in the breasts atrophying over time, plus loss of elastin in the skin, which allows skin to remain elastic and youthful and can hold up a breast. While small-breasted women have an advantage in having little to no ptosis, the condition can happen in virtually all women to some degree.

The main factors that cause ptosis in women include:

  • The natural force has a particular effect on larger-breasted women, especially those who have breasts that may be disproportionately large for the body type.
  • Pregnancy history. A study by researchers found that there is a high correlation between ptosis and the number of pregnancies a woman has – a direct correlation, where the more pregnancies, the deeper the sag, or ptosis, of the breast.
  • Cigarette smoking. Those who smoke cigarettes tend to contribute to ptosis prematurely and/or a deeper sag because cigarette chemicals break down the elastin in the skin, which weakens the skin so it can’t support the breast any longer.
  • Heavyweight loss (or gain). It turns out that a woman who loses or gains 50 pounds or more is more susceptible to greater levels of ptosis.
  • Body mass index (BMI). Women with a larger BMI tend to have a greater sag in their breasts.
  • Breast and cup size. The larger the breast, and the larger the cup size, the bigger the sag. And it can be either breast or cup size; it doesn’t have to be both.

Most of these factors and causes will likely not surprise anyone. When looking at each of these, ptosis can easily occur to virtually every woman to some extent, as some of these factors are beyond a woman’s control.

The research that brought about the revelation of these factors was actually begun by a common question among plastic-surgery patients: Does breastfeeding cause sagging?

A number of patients of plastic surgeon Brian Rinker of the University of Kentucky were looking for breast lifts or breast augmentations, and many of them had breastfed their children, so they had presumed that nursing was what caused the sagging, especially for women who were not post-menopausal and/or middle-aged.

What Rinker’s research found was that, in fact, all the factors listed above had much greater correlation to ptosis than breastfeeding; so much so that Rinker couldn’t say that breastfeeding was even a factor at all in the condition.

Now that you know, what will you do next?


Science and medicine have undergone amazing transformations thanks to technological advancements over the centuries. Over the last 100 years, several tests and scans have come to the fore to more accurately diagnose physical problems, sometimes even in anticipation of a future problem.

It all started with the x-ray in the late 19th century and has expanded in meaningful ways since. Now with MRIs, CT scans, mammograms and other tests, there are literally hundreds of diseases and disorders that can be spotted early, or even predicted in some cases, which of course makes treatment options more comprehensive and makes recovery prognoses better.

With that, most of these technologically advanced tests have their own risks as well as rewards. The risks might be relatively small compared to the disease that may be caught, but they may be enough to cause some patients to take pause whether to consent to a certain test. Mammograms can often be one of these tests.

Why are mammograms so important, when women have the monthly self-exam?

Believe it or not, self-exams can be effective, but mammograms have evolved to a point now that they can note changes in the breast which signal cancer as much as two years before anything can be felt by the woman or a physician. And of course, the earlier a cancer is caught, the more likely it can be eliminated and the more likely a woman’s breast can be preserved.

It is reported that five of every 1,000 women who get mammogram screenings will get diagnosed with breast cancer, and about three-fourths of those are first-generation cancer patients – in other words, they had no family history of the disease and were not considered “high risk.”

The good news is that over the last 25 years, mammograms have helped reduce mortality rates for women with breast cancer by as much as 40 percent.

While mammograms aren’t perfect – they can miss up to 20 percent of cancers – they are perhaps the best, most reliable tool to detect breast cancer. About 10 percent of patients who get mammograms will be asked to conduct future testing – perhaps a biopsy or an MRI, for example –to follow up on any anomalies detected in a mammogram. However, most of the anomalies do not result in cancer.

Once a woman hits the age of 40, it si reported that 1 in 69 such women are at risk of getting breast cancer sometimes during the decade of the 40s, and it’s estimated that 1 in 6 breast cancers are established at some poit during the ages of 40-49.

However, the largest risk factor for breast cancer is a woman who turns the age of 50. This is partly why professionals recommend that women get mammograms every single year once they hit 40, at the very least the age of 50. It turns out that when a woman over the age of 50 skips mammograms every other year, about 30 percent of cancers get missed.

Mammograms can be vital tools in the fight against breast cancer, but they are not forced upon women. Those who care about their health are encouraged to get a mammogram every year starting at age 40, even as part of an annual physical, in order to remain vigilant – the sooner the cancer is caught, the more options that are available and the better the prognosis for full recovery.

How To Feel Sexy After Surviving Breast Cancer

Returning to intimacy after surviving any form of cancer is important. According to a study in October 2014, female cancer survivors experience sexual dysfunction post treatment. This stems from body image issues and the fear that their loved ones will no longer find them attractive in their new body. They stress about weight loss, hair loss, lopsided breasts from reconstruction, lack of nipples, and much more.

If you are feeling this way, it’s nice to know that you are not alone. But through time and a little effort, you can restore intimacy and learn to love yourself again.

Here are some ways that you can start to feel sexy:

1. A lingerie shopping spree! A good high-quality piece of lingerie that extenuates all the right places can make you forget the scars or misshapen breasts and make you feel like a strong confident woman. There are several post mastectomy bras available online.

2. Try some blindfold play in the bed room! Blindfold your partner and let them explore your body with just their lips. You’ll never know what new areas of your body will stimulate your senses.

3. Lap dance! Dancing increases blood flow and can help tone muscles.

While these tips are fine for making you feel sensual again, the true way to feel sexy is to love yourself. Take for instance, this woman’s inspiring story:

History Of The Mammography

Happy 40th birthday! The big 4-0 is a big milestone to reach, and you should be proud of yourself. But 40 is also an important time in your life in regard to medical checkups, especially for mammograms. Some of you may be wondering how mammograms came about and what improvements have been made to them over the years.

In the 1960s, radiologists performed mammography exams using general purpose X-ray tubes, without compression. They captured the imaging onto direct-exposure films, similar to chest X-rays. These were low-contrast images and the area of tissue close to the chest wall appeared “white” due to underexposure.

A decade later, mammography advanced significantly with the introduction of screen-film mammography, which made imaging faster, required lower radiation dose, and provided greater contrast, making it easier to “see through” breast tissues. Improvements in screen-film technology and the establishment of dedicated mammography units during the 1980s and 1990s improved mammography even more.

As the technology improved, mammography screenings became more common due to two factors. First, the results of multiple randomized and controlled trials demonstrated the effectiveness of mammographies in lowering breast cancer mortality rates. Second, the development of effective pre-operative image-guided wire localization techniques made it easier to make tissue diagnosis for suspicious lesions detected by mammograms.

The 90’s saw an uptick in mammography use, resulting in an increase in mammography regulations as well. As the exam became widely used and breast cancer received more publicity, concerns about mammography quality grew. After uncovering various quality issues, a series of Congressional hearings were dedicated to mammography, leading to the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992, forcing uniform standards nationwide, affecting the quality of breast imaging as well as the standards that radiologists must comply with.

Around 2000, breast imaging experienced another significant advancement with the introduction of digital mammography. While digital mammography procedures are essentially the same as X-ray mammographies from the patient’s point of view, the new digital mammography machines produce images that can be read on computers rather than X-ray film, which has improved oncologist’s ability to identify symptoms, give diagnoses, and treat their patients.

As expected, most radiology practices in the U.S. now use digital mammography rather than analog film, as it provides better images with improved tissue contrast. This is important for patients with dense breast tissue, especially younger patients, who tend to have denser breasts than older patients. Digital mammography is also beneficial compared to more traditional mammographies as the patient receives less radiation exposure.

Moving forward, digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is an emerging technology that captures multiple low-dose mammographic images of the breasts. DBT has been shown to reduce false-positives and improve detection of invasive cancers. Hence, DBT has been called “a better mammogram” and will likely become the standard for mammographic screening.

Mammography has come a long way from its humble beginnings of direct-exposure films. Breast imaging radiologists now have more tools in their arsenal than ever before. As additional technological innovations are achieved, mammography is expected to remain a critical part of early detection efforts.

Early detection remains critical to reducing mortality. Mammography remains the most effective and cost-effective tool for detecting breast cancer and we recommend annual mammography screening beginning at age 40.