By Tracy Hansen, APRN, FNP
October is breast cancer awareness month, so let’s talk about screenings and what you can do to minimize your risk!
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women, with more than 250,000 new cases every year, with one in eight women getting diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Early detection is of the essence, and mammography is the best tool we have to screen for breast cancer.
When/How Often to Get Breast Cancer Screenings/Mammograms?
You will find many differing opinions on when to initiate breast cancer screenings with mammography. The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests:
- Women at average risk of breast cancer risk may start annual mammogram screening beginning at age 40
- Women from ages 45-54 should be screened annually
- Those over age 55 may continue with annual exams or every other year exams.
To further clarify, average risk denotes a woman without personal or family history of breast cancer, or a genetic mutation which increases risk of breast cancer. Women with higher than average risk may initiate breast cancer screening with mammography or other tools sooner than age 40.
Latest Research on Clinical Breast Exams or Self-Breast Exams
You may be thinking to yourself: what about clinical breast exams (the one your provider does) or self-breast exams (the one you do)? What role do they play in breast cancer detection?
ACS states that current research has failed to demonstrate any benefit to either clinical or self-breast exams when annual screening mammograms are done. So, in short; they are not recommended. What is important is be aware of your breasts; how they look and feel. If you notice any changes then you should notify your health provider as soon as possible.
What Can You Do to Minimize Your Risk of Breast Cancer?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) lists lifestyle factors that have been found to be associated with breast cancer. Adapting the following lifestyle choices may decrease your chances of developing the disease.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: There is a very clear link between alcohol and breast cancer risk. Drinking 2-3 drinks per day can increase your risk of developing breast cancer by approximately 20%. ACS recommends women do not drink over 1 drink per day.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: There is an association between being overweight or obese and increased risk of breast cancer. ACS recommends maintaining a healthy weight throughout one’s life by balancing physical activity and food intake.
- Being Physically Active: Current evidence suggestions regular physical activity decreases breast cancer risk. ACS recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
Annual Health Maintenance Exams
Murray County Medical Center recommends all women—regardless of age—receive an annual health maintenance exam. At the visit we can discuss any concerns for your health you may have, in addition to screenings such as mammography and when they would be right for you.
Schedule Your Mammogram Today
Our Radiology Department hours are, Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:30 pm. Call us at 507.836.1294 to schedule your 2D or 3D mammogram. Learn more about our mammography services here >.
For more information on breast cancer screenings and lifestyle factors visit: www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer