October is breast cancer awareness month, a campaign that aims to educate women on one of the most common forms of cancer they face. Here’s what you need to know about risks, prevention, and detection of breast cancer.
Who is at risk of breast cancer? It’s important to understand that no one is immune from breast cancer. Any woman could develop this disease (and in fact, a small number of men do as well). However, certain factors do increase your risk, such as…
- You have no children, or had your first child after age 35
- You have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- You have previously had breast cancer, or experienced abnormalities in your breast tissue such as hyperplasia
- You have dense breast tissue
- You smoke, or are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis
More than half of all women with breast cancer are over the age of 60, suggesting that your chances of developing this disease increase as you age.
Luckily, we do know some methods of preventing breast cancer, or at least catching the disease very early. Like other forms of cancer, treatment is more likely to be successful, and full remission more likely, when the disease is detected and treated early. These methods include…
- Eating a healthy diet and maintaining your recommended weight
- Not smoking, and avoiding regular exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exercising regularly
- Performing regular self-exams, and reporting breast changes to your doctor immediately
- Undergoing a mammogram every other year
- Avoiding post-menopausal hormones
- Consulting regularly with your doctor if you know you fall into a high risk category
Some women who are high risk for developing breast cancer can reduce those odds by taking certain medications, called tamoxifen and raloxifene. These medications are not right for everyone, but consultation with your personal physician can help you decide on the right preventive actions.