Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer

New treatments and preventive procedures are helping people beat the disease

that is part of a group of breast cancer treatments called monoclonal antibodies. Unlike chemo and radiation, reported side effects are less severe on the body — although this drug can affect the heart. In 2005, after beginning a fitness routine where she walked three and a half miles a day and overhauled her all-organic diet to eliminate sugar, wheat, gluten, and nearly all dairy products, a tumor was discovered in Abdul-Baaqiy’s brain. She has since had three brain surgeries, each tumor removed larger than the last, the most recent one in July.

But Abdul-Baaqiy isn’t alone in turning down medication. Syler could have taken tamoxifen, a pill to treat the disease that is also used in breast cancer prevention for women at high risk, but it affects the activity of estrogen and also increases the risk of uterine cancer.

An FDA advisory committee in July recommended approval of raloxifene, a drug currently approved to prevent and treat osteoporosis, to reduce invasive breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or with a heightened risk for breast cancer.

COMING TO TERMS
Men can be at risk for breast cancer, too. Syler’s father was _diagnosed when he was in his 40s, and actor Richard Roundtree was diagnosed in 1993. Allen Herbert, a small-business owner who lives in Sterling, Virginia, is among the estimated 2,030 men who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. He had a mastectomy in June and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Herbert’s diagnosis came as a shock, and not just because he’s a man. “I don’t drink,” says Herbert, who turns 46 this month. “I eat right. I exercise all of the time. I don’t eat any meat. I’m in great shape for my age. No one in my family has cancer.”

Breast cancer can be emotionally devastating, regardless of the victim’s gender. But the removal of a breast is particularly _distressing to many women. “I loved my breasts and so did my _husband,” says Abdul-Baaqiy, who now wears a prosthesis. “When I took my first bath [after the mastectomy] I sat there. Your breasts float in the water and I only had one. I just bawled. I mourned the loss of that breast. I did not expect that.”

But there are procedures, including breast reconstruction, that help women better adjust. Syler had a nipple-sparing mastectomy, which saves a woman’s nipple and areola for reconstructive surgery and is gaining in popularity.

“I nursed two babies,” Syler explains. “They did what their purpose was and they were becoming a lot more trouble than they were worth.”

SCREENING GUIDELINES
Because early-stage breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most treatable, it’s very important for women to follow the American Cancer Society’s recommended guidelines for detection — before symptoms develop. Note that women at increased risk (e.g., family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests (i.e. breast ultrasound and MRI), or having more frequent exams.
Age 20-39:

  • Clinical breast examination every three
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