Know your breast cancer risks and reduce them. Mammograms essential for early diagnosis, treatment.

Photo by Antonio_Diaz, iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

FEATURE — In one year, approximately 40,610 women will die from advanced breast cancer in the United States. Approximately 3,180 of those deaths will be in Utah. Annual mammograms can detect changes in breast tissue that could be cancerous years before any physical symptoms develop.

According to the Utah Department of Health, breast cancer is the No. 1 cancer-killer of women in Utah. With Utah’s breast cancer screening rate 7.8 percent lower than the national average, informing women on the benefits of mammography is crucial. In a recent clinical trial, routine screening can reduce breast cancer mortality by 20 percent among women with an average risk.

What are risk factors of breast cancer?

Dr. Joseph Te, oncologist for Revere Health, said one of the keys to both breast cancer prevention and treatment planning is understanding your personal risk factors, family history and screening recommendations.

“Be familiar with your risk factors, understand your family history, your physical features and hormonal balances,” Te said. “Together with your physician, we can create a plan that decreases your risk of developing breast cancer.”

These risk factors include:

  • Age: As a woman ages they develop an increased risk of breast cancer. Risk levels increase after age 40 and are at their highest risk level over age 70.
  • Weight: Postmenopausal women with an increased body-mass index – or BMI – have a higher risk. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
  • Breast density: Women with high breast density are at greater risk due to the increased amount of breast and connective tissue compared to fat.
  • Estrogen levels: Higher amounts of estrogen in the blood has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
  • Radiation exposure: The earlier you are exposed to radiation, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Genetics: Gene defects are thought to be the cause of nearly 5-10 percent of breast cancers.
  • Menstruation: Young girls who start menstruation before 12 years old and women who start menopause after age 55 are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Motherhood: Women who never had children or had children after the age of 35 are at an increased risk.

Mammograms

Regular mammograms can pick up 85 percent of breast cancer and lead to an early diagnosis that saves lives.

“In our clinic we see patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer due to their annual mammogram and are able to be cured if diagnosed early,” Te said. “Sometimes these patients are able to avoid chemotherapy during treatment, altogether.”

Te offers a few screening suggestions:

  • Individuals younger than 40 years old do not need a screening unless they have identified high risk factors.
  • Individuals between 40 and 74 years old should consult with their healthcare provider to build a screening plan.
  • Individuals 75 and older should receive a mammogram only if their life expectancy is 10 years.

Lifestyle

The good news is that small changes to your lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers discovered small lifestyle modifications help reduce breast cancer diagnosis by 34 percent in postmenopausal women.

Those small lifestyle changes include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol and smoking.
  • Being aware of radiation exposure.
  • Avoid working night shifts.
  • Avoid postmenopausal hormone use.

Multiple factors come into play when determining your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Consulting with your healthcare provider about lifestyle and risk factors will help you create a personalized plan for prevention.

“The key to averting breast cancer deaths is through physician recommended screening plans and knowledge of your risk factors,” Te said. “We can detect, treat and cure breast cancer if discovered in its early stages.”

Get in touch with your healthcare provider today to take proper precautions to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

 S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

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