Breast Cancer: What’s the Risk?

Breast Cancer RibbonBreast cancer remains the second-deadliest cancer in women (after lung cancer). It is important to know your personal risk factors, so you can reduce your risk through lifestyle changes and receive a breast-cancer screening that is tailored to you.

Learn Your Risk Factors

How often should you have a screening? What should your prevention strategy be? It all depends on your personal risk factors. Talk with your primary care provider about your situation.

Being female and getting older are your biggest risk factors. You are at higher risk if there’s a history of breast cancer in your family or if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. But keep in mind: approximately 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. Other risk factors include starting periods at a young age, having your first baby after the age of 30 or never having children, being obese, and having dense breasts.

Make Lifestyle Changes

You can take positive steps to reduce your risk for many cancers. Some areas to explore: Are you getting enough exercise? Are you at a good weight? Do you smoke? Finally, how healthy is your diet? Are you eating more vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains? How much your red meat, sugar and alcohol do you consume?

Your health care team can help you with all these lifestyle factors. For dietary inspiration, explore the recipes and ideas offered by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Get Screened

Despite the value of knowing your risks, many breast-cancer cases develop without obvious risk factors. This is why age-appropriate breast-cancer screenings are essential for all women. The best approach to breast cancer detection is regular mammograms.

  • Mammograms should be performed every 1-2 years beginning at age 40, based upon discussion with your health care provider.
  • If you’re over age 75, the benefits of mammograms are less certain.
  • Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel can help you be aware of changes, which you can share with your provider.

Not Sure Where to Start? Ask the Right Questions

Here are some questions to ask your primary care provider at your next visit:

  • What testing should I get at my age?
  • What do I need to know about my family history that could put me at higher risk for breast cancer?
  • What can I do to prevent breast cancer or decrease my risk?

PacMed offers several options for primary care providers, an excellent place to begin a conversation about breast cancer prevention. Learn about our Primary Care team. We also invite you to explore our Women’s Health offerings and our Oncology department.