Breast Cancer 101: Know the facts to protect yourself
Although breast cancer remains one of the most common cancers among women, early detection and new treatments have significantly increased survival rates associated with it. For this reason, women should fully understand risk factors, symptoms and screening methods.
Are you at risk?
Several risk factors increase your chance of developing breast cancer. Some factors you can prevent, while others are a product of genetics and family history.
- Gender. Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men.
- Age. Two out of three women who get breast cancer are age 55 or older.
- Genetics and family history. Five to 10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by inherited gene mutations. In addition, breast cancers in first-degree relatives can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- History of breast cancer. Women who have had breast cancer are at an increased risk of having the cancer recur in the same breast or developing a new cancer on the opposite breast.
- Race. Caucasian women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than all other races.
- Dense breast tissue. Increased breast density may increase risk and makes cancer harder to detect on mammograms.
- Benign breast problems. Women who have certain non-cancerous breast conditions may have an increased risk for developing cancer in the future.
- Alcohol consumption. Consuming two to five drinks per day can double a women’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- Inactivity. Exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese has been directly linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Early detection is key
Detecting breast cancer early is extremely important. In addition to recognizing the symptoms of breast cancer, women should stick to the specific screening guidelines, says Jennifer Manders, M.D., breast surgeon with The Christ Hospital Cancer Center.
Starting in their early 20s, all women should begin performing breast self-exams (BSEs). Women who regularly perform BSEs know how their breasts normally look and feel, making it easier to identify abnormalities. Physicians will also begin to perform clinical breast exams on women in their 20s and throughout their 30s.
A mammogram may be able to detect breast cancer long before it can be felt. “During your 30s, your physician will discuss with you when to get a baseline mammogram, depending on your risk factors,” explains Dr. Manders. “By age 40, women should begin receiving yearly mammograms.”
While they are not always 100 percent accurate, mammograms are a good tool to detect breast cancer. “Despite the new recommendations on mammogram screenings put out by the U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce, many physicians still advise women to start them at age 40 and annually thereafter,” Dr. Manders notes.
Women who have multiple risk factors for breast cancer should discuss receiving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasounds in addition to the yearly mammogram. “Both tests can help differentiate normal or abnormal tissue,” Dr. Manders adds.
Care from the experts
Breast health is something you and your physician need to take seriously. The Christ Hospital has four mammogram screening centers in Mt. Auburn, Mason, Delhi and Madisonville, as well as a dedicated Women’s Imaging Center. To schedule your mammogram, call 513-585-2668.
The Christ Hospital has partnered with the American Cancer Society’s Breast Education and Screening Together (BEST) program to offer free mammograms to low-income, uninsured or underinsured women in Ohio. Find out if you qualify for a free mammogram at www.TheChristHospital.com/women.