Designing a Breast Cancer Prevention Strategy
How often should you have a screening? What should your prevention strategy be? October is Breast Cancer Awareness month—a perfect time to talk with your provider about a strategy for you.
About one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer, but due to great medical advances, around 80 percent will survive it. Still, breast cancer remains the second-deadliest cancer in women (after lung cancer). It is important to know your personal risk factors so you can take steps to reduce your risk.
Fortunately, this cancer is highly preventable. Read on for two important prevention steps. And of course, if you have questions, make an appointment with your primary care doctor to learn more.
When deciding on your breast-cancer prevention and screening strategy, consider the following risk factors:
- Being female and older age
- Personal or family history of breast cancer, especially among close relatives
- Early onset of menstruation
- Later onset of menopause
- Dense breasts (as learned after a mammogram)
- History of breast health problems found in biopsies
Lifestyle factors play a moderate role in the development of breast cancer. Weight gain after menopause, working night shifts, alcohol use and several hormone-replacement therapies are known to increase the risk. On the other hand, having a baby before age 30, breastfeeding, regular exercise and a Mediterranean-like diet—rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil—all seem to aid in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer.
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 provider.
- If you’re over age 75, the benefits of mammograms are less certain.
- Breast self-exams are a good practice. Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel can help you be aware of changes, which you can share with your healthcare provider. Finding a change doesn’t necessarily mean there is cancer.
If you have a family history, talk with your doctor about testing for hereditary cancer syndromes, such as BRCA gene mutations.
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.