Minimize your risk for breast cancer

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Approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. One of the best ways to minimize your risk for breast cancer is through early detection and education. Here are a few key pieces of information to increase your understanding of breast cancer and help you prevent it.

There are many risk factors for breast cancer, and some are not within your control. These include:

  • Your age – The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Less than five percent of women diagnosed with the disease are under age 40.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer – Your risk increases if your mother, sister or daughter had the disease.
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer — Having breast cancer in one breast means you’re at an increased risk to have it develop in the other breast.
  • Cumulative exposure to estrogen — Women who started their menstrual period before age 12 or went through menopause after age 55 are at higher risk.
  • Having dense breasts — Your health care provider can tell you if your breasts are dense.
  • Your race — Caucasian women are at increased risk.

However, some breast cancer risk factors are within your control, such as:

  • Being overweight after menopause
  • Not being physically active
  • Drinking alcohol – the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk.
  • Not having children or having your first child after age 30
  • Receiving hormone replacement therapy after menopause

Mammograms save lives

Did you know that mammograms detect 80 to 90 percent of breast cancers in women without symptoms? There is a 98 percent chance of survival when breast cancer is detected in its early, most treatable stage, and mammogram screening remains the most effective way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. While mammograms do not prevent breast cancer, they are an important life-saving tool.

Current mammogram screening guidelines

Aurora Health Care recommends that clinicians and their patients follow the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) most recent guidelines for breast cancer screenings.

Here’s a summary of those recommendations:

  • Beginning at age 25, women should regularly be asked questions related to their family history of breast and other cancers to determine whether they qualify for consultation with a genetics counselor.
  • Beginning at age 30, women should be assessed as to whether they are considered average risk, intermediate risk, or high risk for developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Women determined to be high risk should be considered for referral to a breast health specialist for consultation.
  • Women determined to be intermediate risk should have annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
  • Women determined to be average risk may be offered mammograms at age 40. Annual mammograms should start by age 45.
  • At age 55, women can transition to every other year mammogram screening, but they should have the opportunity to continue annual screening if they choose to do so.

Continue the discussion

Women should talk with their health care professional about their personal risk for breast cancer, and also talk with their mother, daughters, sisters and friends about the importance of having regular mammograms. Helping to educate each other on the facts of breast cancer and importance of early detection can help save a life.

Dr. Richard Kiefer is a general surgeon who specializes in breast surgery at the Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, located at 855 N. Westhaven Dr. His office can be reached at 920-303-8700.

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