It would be difficult to focus on women’s health without touching on one of the biggest concerns facing women. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to take a minute to review the screening guidelines as well as touch on what we can do here at Advanced Center For Pain And Rehab for our patients facing this disease.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States behind skin cancer, affecting 1 in 8 women. Support for breast cancer research has drastically improved screening, diagnosis and treatment, which has led to earlier detection and increased survival rates.
Symptoms of breast cancer can include but are not limited to a lump in the breast or surrounding tissue, a change in breast size or shape, dimpling or puckering of the skin, and changes in nipple orientations, color or discharge. It is important that women be familiar with their breasts and seek medical attention if anything seems out of the ordinary.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, revised its guidelines last year in regard to screening. The guidelines encourage “shared decision making” for when to start and how often to repeat mammograms for average-risk patients. This gives patients and physicians the opportunity to share information regarding health history, concerns and values, and to discuss risks and benefits and ultimately make decisions together. This patient-centered approach allows patients to take a more active and informed decision regarding their breast health.
Below is a summary of the changes to the guidelines according to the ACOG:
● Women at average risk of breast cancer should be offered screening mammography starting at age 40. If they have not initiated screening in their 40s, they should begin screening mammography by no later than age 50. The decision about the age to begin mammography screening should be made through a shared decision-making process. This discussion should include information about the potential benefits and harms.
● Women at average risk of breast cancer should have screening mammography every one or two years based on an informed, shared decision-making process that includes a discussion of the benefits and harms of annual and biennial screening and incorporates patient values and preferences.
● Women at average risk of breast cancer should continue screening mammography until at least 75 years of age. Beyond age 75, the decision to discontinue screening mammography should be based on a shared decision-making process informed by the woman's health status and longevity.
While cancer treatment should be under the direction of the oncology teams, chiropractors can also play a crucial role in improving quality of life during this time. It was reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that among 453 cancer patients surveyed, 83.3 percent had used at least one complementary alternative medicine (CAM) therapy concurrent with conventional treatment. Another discovery was that 24.7 percent of participants used seven or more CAM therapies.
Pain management is an essential part of any cancer treatment plan. Chiropractic treatment and our other therapies, such as massage and physical therapy, can aid in the complications of prolonged bed rest, chronic pain related to radiation fibrosis and side effects such as headaches. It is also common for patients undergoing weeks of radiation to develop musculoskeletal pain from prolonged positions known as radiation positioning. Many times the positions patients are put in are vital to their treatment but are not always the most comfortable and can cause pain over time. In many cases chiropractic care can help alleviate pain enough to prevent delays in radiation treatment, allowing patient care to continue without unwanted interruptions.
Another option available to those going through breast cancer treatment is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve chemo-related nausea, fatigue, sleep disturbances and hot flashes as well as pain. Just as important, acupuncture has been shown to have a positive effect on stress, depression and anxiety, all common results of a recent cancer diagnosis.
Acupuncture is a great way to address these issues without adding more medication to an already lengthy list. Acupuncture works by releasing endorphins and slowing the body’s production of stress hormones. The risks associated with acupuncture are almost nonexistent and are by far outweighed by the potential benefits. Most patients even find the treatment relaxing.
Finally, women, please discuss your screening options with your OB GYN at your next visit. Early detection saves lives!