Transgender Health & Breast Cancer

Transgender Health & Breast Cancer

As research builds for our transgender community, cancer screenings and preventative health must be encouraged. As hormonal therapy and surgery are often part of transitioning, trans people should be aware of their risk of developing certain cancers including breast cancer, reproductive cancers, or prostate cancer dependent on their individual treatment.

Risk of Breast Cancer in Trans Women

According to a Dutch study from 2019, for a trans female on hormonal therapy, the risk of developing breast cancer is slightly higher than in the cisgender male population, but still lower than the general cisgender female population.1 Just as hormonal replacement therapy has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in a post-menopausal cisgender female population, so it is for trans women.

Another Dutch study from 2013 noted that 60% of trans women whose records were reviewed in the study had dense or very dense breasts which is known to limit effectiveness of mammogram studies and puts someone at increased individual risk for breast cancer in all populations.2

Those with BRCA1/BRCA2 genetic mutations likely also have an increased risk of breast cancer, although more research is needed specifically for the transgender population. If someone has a BRCA mutation or significant family history of breast cancer, they should discuss screening options with their healthcare providers.

Risk of Breast Cancer in Trans Men

For trans men on hormonal therapy, the risk of developing breast cancer is lower than in the cisgender female population. Trans men also may choose to have top surgery which could include a breast reduction or removal of the breasts (bilateral mastectomy). The risk of developing breast cancer after mastectomy in this population is unknown at this time.1,3

Breast Cancer Screenings for the Trans Population

In the United States, some studies show that transgender people are less adherent to mammogram screening guidelines than cisgender people (often due to stigma or limited access to healthcare).4 However, it is important for these screenings to take place regularly as early detection of breast cancer can save lives.

Current guidelines for trans women who are age 50 or older and have been on hormonal therapy >5 years, a mammogram is recommended every 2 years.1

Trans men who have not had bilateral mastectomy or who only had a breast reduction should undergo an annual mammogram after age 40. After age 50, mammograms can be done every 2 years (but can be continued annually dependent on patient risk and preference). For trans men who have had bilateral mastectomy, chest wall examinations are recommended.3

Breast/Chest self-exams are recommended monthly for both transgender and cisgender populations to pick up early signs of cancer! To learn more about how to do a self-exam, see my previous post here.

Aloha ❤

Pink October

Pink October

Today is October 1, and there are so many things to celebrate this month! Before I get carried away – I want to remind you all that the first of the month is a great time to schedule or do your preventative screenings including your breast self-exam! Performance of routine self-exams help to identify cancerous tumors in earlier stages and can save your life! Go ahead and #FeelItOnTheFirst, and if you haven’t yet, schedule your annual mammogram!

Fun fact: 40% of all breast cancers are discovered by a self-exam!1

October has always been one of my favorite months for many reasons, but as a pelvic floor PT, I am thrilled that I get to celebrate National Physical Therapy Month and Breast Cancer Awareness month in one shot! I consider myself an “educator” by nature, and I always look forward to sharing information with my family and friends about the benefits of physical therapy, especially for our breast cancer thrivers and survivors.

I have several posts lined up for the next few weeks regarding breast cancer surgery, rehabilitation, and complications as well as some common pelvic floor concerns during breast cancer treatment. I look forward to sharing how a physical therapist can play an important role for our oncology patients as I experience my first Breast Cancer Awareness Month as someone living through breast cancer.

I also wanted to bring some awareness to something I hadn’t really given any thought to before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s no secret that every October, things turn pink all over the place. I’m talking pink products in stores, pink foods, pink cleats in the NFL…you catch the drift. Companies all over the place are eager to jump on board with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and yet, not all of these companies have the best intentions in mind.

In fact, many companies profit tremendously by slapping a pink label on their product and saying that a certain amount of proceeds go to breast cancer research. We call this “pinkwashing,” and as it turns out, many companies are capitalizing on this terrible disease and only donate a small portion of their sales (or none at all) to support breast cancer research or patients.

Unfortunate as it is, I ask that if you do want to support those who are or who will be affected by breast cancer (remember 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime), please do your research on which companies provide support to breast cancer research or directly to breast cancer patients before you buy that pink label.

Let’s turn Awareness into Action! Here are a few of my favorite breast cancer organizations to support:

  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation – your donation goes to sponsor research grants in many areas related to breast cancer. BCRF is recognized by Charity Watch as a top-rated cancer fundraising organization.
  • TNBC Foundation – your donation will go to improving research and quality of life and education for those living with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I personally have benefited tremendously from the community associated with the TNBC Foundation and the educational events this foundation hosts!
  • METAvivor – your donation will go to improving research for those living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
  • Compassion that Compels – if you’re looking to donate to a smaller organization that provides direct support to cancer thrivers – this is a great one! Your donation will go to providing emotional support, chemo care packages, and prayer to women with breast cancer. I loved receiving a Compassion Bag from this lovely organization!

I hope you are as excited about the possibilities in October as I am! I am also on track to complete chemotherapy at the end of the month (actually, I completed #13/16 TODAY) so it’s going to be a party for sure! Take care of yourselves and I look forward to sharing a TON of good info with you this month!

Aloha ❤