Pregnant with Breast Cancer

Yes if you wait a few years. In the past, researchers worried that the excess estrogen produced during pregnancy could trigger a resurgence of cancer. Numerous studies, houever, have found this not to be the case. Even so, experts advise women to delay pregnancy for two years after completing chemotherapy because the risk of recurrence is highest during that period.

Is H sote to take hormones if my treatment causes early menopause?
There are no easy ansuers here. W hen a uomans body stops producing estrogen as a result of chemotherapy or removal of her ovaries, she faces neu health risks, such as heart disease (estrogen is thought to these pmhlems. as uell as relieve troııblesonıe synıptoms like hot flashe» and vaginal dıyness. But there hasn’t yet heen a single published rontrolled elinical trial to teli vomen whether hormones w ili make recunence of cancer more likelv.

Researchers do agree that healthy women uho take estrogen after menopause face a small (15 to 29 percent) increase in their risk of developiııg breast cancer. Bul this increase is assoeiated with ınore than ten years of estrogen use, according to Karen Steinberg, Ph.D.. of the Centers for Disease Control and Preveııtion in Atlanta. And although there is coııcem that estrogen could stimulate the gmulh of existing can cer, there is no evidence that it causes new tumors to form.

Partially for this reason, a paper in Thr Journal of the American Medical Association eondudes that estrogen replacement therapy may be worth the risk for breast cancer survivors, partıcularly if they’re in danger of developing heart disease.

Of course, women can also help reduce their risk of heart disease and osteoporosis urithout hormoneswith exercise, a lowfat, calcium rich diet and cholesterol Iowering drugs.

What decreases my risk?
Here’s the good news. Pregnancy. particularly before the age of 30, protects against breast cancer in the long run, perhaps be cause the hormones of pregnancy cause the breast tissue to mature.

Lactation, too. may help prevent dis ease, though the evidence is less clear. A study by Polly Newcomb, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Çenter in Madison. found that u omen uho breast feed for even a feur months louer their chances of getting breast cancer before age 50 by 20 to 30 percent. Other studies have shown either no effect or that it takes anyurhere from four months to a total of eight years of lac tation to reduce risk.

The news on exercise is especially heartening. A recent study found that exercising an average of four hours a u eek lowered breast cancer risk by 58 percent in uomen under 40.

Not ali risk factors are under a uoman’s control. But by doing regular breast selfexams and making smart lifestyle choices nou, young uomen can help protect their breasts for years to come.

Leslie Laurence is co author; with Beth Weinhouser of Outrageous Praetices: The Alarming Truth About Hou Medicine Mistreats Women (Faucett Columbine).

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