What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

Think about this: At least one of those women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to statistics published in 2018 by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. About 12 percent of women, or one in eight, will battle some form of breast cancer over the course of her life. 

As advocates for women's health, we at South Plains Rural Health Services offer the following recommendations from the American Cancer Society for reducing your risk of breast cancer. 

Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight

Women who are overweight or gain weight in adulthood are at an increased risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. 

Stay physically active

The American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week for all adults. Activities such as brisk walking, bike riding, yoga and strength training are all good ways to get your heart rate up. Exercise may also help you maintain a healthy body weight. 

Watch your alcohol consumption

Breast cancer is linked to even low levels of alcohol use. If you decide to drink, the American Cancer Society suggests no more than one drink per day to minimize your risk. 

Know the risks of hormone treatment after menopause 

Studies show that women who use estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy long term to manage symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The increased risk from HRT is the same whether you take "bio-identical" and "natural" hormones as it is for synthetic forms of estrogen, according to Breastcancer.org. If you are struggling with hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause, talk to your doctor about non-hormonal alternatives to make you more comfortable. 

Talk to your doctor about birth control 

Certain types of birth control, such as oral contraceptives, contraceptive shots and implants, have all been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer. If you currently use these types of birth control, talk to your doctor about your risk. Women who have used the pill and discontinued it for at least 10 years show no increased risk compared to women who have never used oral contraceptives. For women using contraceptive shots, the risk returns to normal after five years of discontinuing them. 

Know your family history

If your daughter, mother or sister had breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease yourself doubles. If you have two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, your risk triples. If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Researchers have discovered several gene mutations, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2, that indicate a much higher than normal risk for breast cancer. If you have close relatives with breast cancer, your doctor may want to take additional precautions or perform additional tests. 

Follow your doctor's recommendations about mammograms

A mammogram can detect cancer early when the chance of successful treatment is highest. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 to 44 should discuss screening mammography with their doctors and get annual screening mammograms from age 45 to 54. At age 55, depending on your health and other risk factors, your doctor may continue annual screening or decrease the test to every other year. 

Depending on your breast tissue and other health factors, your doctor may order more frequent mammography or other imaging, such as a breast ultrasound or MRI. 

Know the signs and symptoms

You should be familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice any suspicious lumps or skin change, call your doctor right away. Other symptoms of breast cancer may include nipple pain or discharge, dimpling of the breast skin, and swelling or redness of the breast. 

If you have any concerns about your risk for breast cancer, schedule an appointment with one of the women's health specialists at South Plains Rural Health Center today.  

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