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Waiting Room: 4 Tips for Breast Cancer Education and Prevention

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Dr. Suzanne Fuqua gives tips for breast cancer education and prevention.

Dr. Suzanne Fuqua, Photo courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine.

In the U.S., one in eight women and one in one thousand men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Suzanne Fuqua, professor of medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine, shares some prevention and education tips. She also talks about the powerful impact she’s making in breast cancer research. Fuqua is the recipient of The Kendra Scott Award in Honor of Holley Rothell Kitchen from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, investigating metastatic breast cancer.

I’m a homegrown Texas-educated girl. I went to the University of Houston for both my bachelor’s and master’s, then finished my PhD at MD Anderson in Cancer Biology in 1981. I’ve dedicated my whole career to breast cancer. I’ve come to understand why some therapies work, why some therapies don’t work for certain women and how we can prevent the critical problem of metastasis. It’s important for us all to be educated on proper prevention and the latest research and developments for breast cancer. Here are five things you can do today.

1. Know Your Body

Regular self-examinations and regular mammograms (especially if you are over 50) are key to catching breast cancer in the earlier stages, when it is most treatable. If you conduct self-examinations regularly, you’ll notice when something might be different. It can take up to ten years for cancer to grow enough that you can find it, but a mammogram can identify any cancerous cells earlier. If you’ve never scheduled a mammogram or are looking for more information on how mammograms and self-examinations work, talk to your doctor.

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2. Ask Family Members for History of Breast and Ovarian Cancer

This helps you and your doctor evaluate your risk level and create a preventative treatment plan, especially if you test positive for the BRCA gene. The BRCA gene, or the Breast Cancer Gene, is commonly misconceived as the gene that causes breast cancer. In most people it does the opposite. It plays a big role in repairing DNA breaks that could lead to cancer. However, when this gene is mutated in some people, it cannot prevent it and becomes a concern.

3. Educate Yourself

In order to conquer anything, you must know your enemy. In this case, the enemy is a mutated estrogen receptor. Think of it like a lock and key. The estrogen receptor requires the estrogen key. The lock closes behind it to keep the estrogen contained. When this receptor mutates, the lock breaks, leaving it open all the time. This causes the cancer to grow faster. With the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) I study mutations in the estrogen receptor to see how it not only evades cancer therapies but also how it’s driving metastasis. What we have learned is that this resistance to therapy is caused by a mutation—something that happens more frequently in metastatic breast cancer. We aim to find drugs that work on this broken receptor and combine them with a drug targeting the metastasis the receptor is driving. You can read more about this from the BCRF.

4. Support Causes that Give Back

We are on such a breakthrough track now. I think for the first time in my life I am able to say I see the end of the tunnel. We can manage metastatic disease like we do diabetes. I couldn’t have said that five years ago. If the cancer is controlled, that is a cure. I think we’re getting close. Supporting causes that help fund our research puts us on the path to a cure. Here in Texas, Kendra Scott annually partners with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation on a gorgeous jewelry collection that directly supports the research I do. Twenty percent of all purchases helps support the research. Shopping with intention matters. It makes life-saving research possible.


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