There is still no sure-fire way to prevent breast cancer. However, researchers are making progress in this area. "Chemoprevention" drugs, such as tamoxifen, have shown promising results in clinical trials nationwide for women at high risk for developing breast cancer. Another prevention drug, raloxifene, has also been demonstrated to have benefit. These medications also have potential side effects so their use should be carefully considered.
There is also some evidence (although not conclusive) to suggest that eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, exercising regularly during the reproductive years, breastfeeding, minimizing alcohol consumption and avoiding hormone replacement therapy may help reduce your risk of developing the disease.
In very rare cases, women who are at the greatest risk for breast cancer may consider a "prophylactic mastectomy." This is a preventive (and controversial) procedure, in which one or both cancer-free breasts are surgically removed to decrease the risk of future development of breast cancer.
What is the prognosis for a woman with breast cancer?
Most women who are treated for early breast cancer will have excellent outcomes. An individual woman's chance for recovery depends on many factors, including:
- The type of cancer, the degree of aggressiveness, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread outside of the breast
- Whether the breast cancer is one that grows more rapidly in the presence of female hormones (Estrogen Receptor positive)
- The woman's age, menopausal status and overall health
- In general, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is related to the size of the tumor, whether or not the cancer is in the lymph nodes or has spread to other parts of the body (the Stage of the cancer.)