Breast Cancer Risk and Screening
All women, no matter their age, race, or ethnicity, can be affected by breast cancer. And there’s a good chance you already know someone who has - 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer by the age of 75.
Women over 50 carry the highest risk, but breast cancer doesn’t discriminate – younger women are also susceptible. And while increased screening rates and advances in treatment are helping to save lives, it remains the 2nd most deadly cancer for women.
Those statistics may stir up some feelings of fear, but it’s vital to remember that with regular screening, body awareness, and focused self-care you can promote the health of your breasts and increase the chance for successful treatment in the case of cancer.
Early Detection Goes a Long Way
It’s normal to feel a bit anxious when it’s time to go in for your screening – but when cancer is found early, the treatment is often shorter in duration, has fewer side effects, and increases your chances for long-term health.
*These guidelines are for women with average risk. Women with high risk may need to start screening at an earlier age and/or require additional forms of testing. See below for a list of risk factors and be sure to work with your Seven Hills provider to assess your screening needs.
Mammogram & Other Imaging:
Mammogram – The most well-known standard of detection, this x-ray plays a key role in finding abnormalities in your breast tissue. It’s recommended that women of average risk begin screening at age 40. Your doctor can help you determine whether you need to be screened every year or every other year.
Breast MRI- This imaging test creates detailed images of your breast and may be recommended for women who are high risk, have dense tissue, or who have had breast cancer in the past.
3D Mammogram – This x-ray creates a 3-dimensional image to provide radiologists with a deeper view of your tissue. It can be used in traditional screening and is most often recommended for women with dense breast tissue or who are at a high risk for cancer.
Breast Ultrasound – Using sound waves to create an electronic image, this test is often a supplemental screening for women with dense breast tissue and a follow-up screening after an abnormal mammogram result.
Your OBGYN provider is trained to precisely feel for any abnormalities. An annual check adds a crucial layer of prevention and is recommended for all women, even during the year(s) you aren’t due for a pap smear or a mammogram.
Having a sense of what’s normal for your own body helps you notice any changes in between your routine screenings. And changes aren’t limited to lumps – look for skin changes, nipple discharge, or painful spots. These don’t always point to cancer but be sure to report them to your provider for further guidance.
Hereditary Cancer Screening:
Most women don’t carry an inherited genetic mutation, but for those who do, the chances of developing cancer are significantly higher. Genetic testing isn’t necessary nor appropriate for every woman, so it’s important to be screened and seek support before determining your next steps.
Seven Hills provides easy access to an online screening tool, genetic testing, and supportive resources. Learn more here.
Factors that Can Increase Your Cancer Risk
While these factors may increase your risk, screening and self-care both put you in the best position to protect your health.
- Natural aging
- Obesity, especially after menopause
- Family history of breast cancer
- Use of combined hormone therapy
- Low physical activity level
- Alcohol use
- Genetic mutations
- Radiation therapy before the age of 30
- Personal history of breast cancer or atypical cells
Steps You Can Take to Lower Your Risk
There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but these can help minimize your risk:
- Stay physically active
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Know your family history
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Breastfeed your baby
- Seek support to stop smoking
- Take our hereditary cancer screening survey
Our practice is built on the belief that meaningful healthcare focuses on each woman’s unique needs. You’ll find a warm and supportive environment at each of our 15 locations, all designed to be easily accessible from home or work.
You’re worth it – reach out and schedule a consultation to understand your risk and access personalized care.