Breast Cancer: Can you prevent it?

Oct 5, 2022

By Mary Richards, FNP,  Oak Orchard Health Warsaw

Most everyone knows a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. That is because breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in American women, except for lung cancer. It can occur at any age, but the risk goes up as you get older. Because of certain risk factors, some women may have a greater chance of having breast cancer than others, according to the American Cancer Society.

Schedule your mammogram today!
Many women with breast cancer have no symptoms which is why it is important to get a regular mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends women start at age 40 for their yearly breast cancer screening. Should you have a family history of breast cancer you may need to get your mammogram earlier, particularly if that family member was under 40 years of age and in your immediate family (sister, mother). If that is the case, you may want to start mammograms at 35. With that family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you may be eligible at age 25+ for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation test. According to the Mayo Clinic, the BRCA gene test is offered to those who are likely to have an inherited mutation based on personal or family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Talk to your health care provider about this option.

What causes Breast Cancer?
With about 1 in 8 women getting breast cancer during their life, it is important to look at what causes it. Though there are no definitive answers for every case of breast cancer, we do know that there are known risk factors. They are lifestyle related or genetic. A risk factor can increase your chance of getting it, but that is not for sure. Here are just a few according to the American Cancer Society:

1. Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Women who have one alcoholic drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk compared with those who do not drink, while women who have two to three drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk. Alcohol is linked to an increased risk of other types of cancer, too.

2. Being overweight or obese. Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase the chances of getting breast cancer. Women who are overweight also tend to have higher blood insulin levels. Higher insulin levels have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. However, weight is a complex topic when it comes to a link to cancer. You should talk with your provider if you have questions.

3. Not being physically active. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these). Getting to or going over the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.

You can help reduce your risk of cancer by making healthy choices like eating right, staying active, and not smoking. It is also important to follow recommended screening guidelines, which can help detect certain cancers early. And never let paying for your mammogram stop you from getting one. Contact Oak Orchard Health at (585) 637-3905 and we can help you find financial support.


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