It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division and author of “Breast Fitness” and Constance Lehman, M.D., Ph.D., director of radiology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, put together these TOP TIPS FOR BREAST CANCER PREVENTION. Read the “fine print” about each recommendation on the Hutchinson Center’s website.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle: Keep your weight in normal range, stay physically active (30 minutes a day), minimize alcohol intake (one drink a day or less), and don’t smoke. Overweight, inactivity, and alcohol all increase risk for breast cancer, and smoking increases risk in some women.
- Breast feed your babies for as long as possible. Women who breast feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
- Postmenopausal women: Avoid hormone replacement therapy. Menopausal hormone therapy increases risk for breast cancer. If you must take hormones to manage menopausal symptoms, avoid those that contain progesterone and limit their use to less than three years. “Bioidentical” hormones and hormonal creams and gels are no safer than prescription hormones and should also be avoided.
- High-risk women: Consider taking an estrogen-blocking drug. Women with a family history of breast cancer or who have had breast biopsies or are over 60 should talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors.
- If you are over 40, get a mammogram. Early detection of breast cancer offers the best chance for a cure. SCCA supports the American Cancer Society’s recommendation that women begin annual mammography screening at age 40.
- Know your risk. Tell your doctor if you have family members who have had breast cancer, especially a mother or sister, and if they had breast cancer before reaching menopause because your own risk of cancer may be higher than average. Some women at high risk may be recommended for annual MRI in addition to a screening mammogram.
- Don’t put off screening because of discomfort or fear of the results. A mammogram should never be painful. Schedule the exam after your monthly period, when breast tissue is less sensitive. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen before your mammogram may ease any discomfort. Above all, tell the mammography technologist about any discomfort you may be experiencing.
Most abnormalities found after a mammogram are not cancer. However, in some cases you may be called back for more tests, such as additional mammography or ultrasound screening, to confirm that the area on the screening mammogram is normal.