What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

About one in eight women in the United States will get invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. That's more than a 12 percent chance of having the disease. This information is disturbing for many women, especially for those who are at high risk. Many are glad to hear that there are things that can be done to reduce the risk.

Control your weight

Weight problems put people at risk for breast cancer. This is especially true of women who put on weight after menopause. Women who want to lose weight after gaining a few pounds during menopause can do so by switching to a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Low-calorie diets can be counterproductive for women in menopause because weight loss on these diets is often temporary. Vegetarian diets and Mediterranean diets are healthier and generally more effective for losing and keeping off weight. If you're trying to lose weight after going through menopause, talk to your doctor, rethink your diet and start a healthy exercise regimen.

Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is good for more than just babies! Breastfeeding your child for at least one year (or more) reduces your risk of breast cancer. Add together the months that you've breastfed over the course of your life, and if it's more than a year total, you've effectively reduced your chances of developing breast cancer.

Stop smoking, limit alcohol intake

Some bad habits, including smoking and excessive alcohol intake, can cause an increase in instances of breast cancer. To reduce your chances of getting breast cancer, stop smoking (if you're a smoker) and limit your intake of alcohol to less than one drink per day.

It's hard to stop smoking. If you're having trouble, talk to your doctor or inquire with your insurance company about smoking cessation programs in your area. Many insurance companies offer these programs free for patients.

Stop birth control pills after age 35

Birth control pills increase the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true of women who also smoke while taking birth control pills. If you're over age 35, stop taking birth control pills (if you take them). Find another way to prevent unwanted pregnancies that has a lower risk of breast cancer. Your doctor can help you with this.

Get screened regularly

Getting screenings regularly can help identify breast cancer in its early stages. Many doctors recommend that women start having regular mammograms at age 40. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer may need to get mammograms more often. To find out how often your doctor recommends screenings, speak with your physician.

Take medicines if you're high risk

Women who have a high risk for breast cancer can take medicines to reduce their chances. How do you know if you're high risk?

Family history. You have a higher risk of developing breast cancer if women in your immediate family have also developed breast cancer.
Genetics. Certain genetic mutations can increase the risk of breast cancer by as much as 85 percent.
Bone and tissue density. Women with dense bones and dense breast tissue are at higher risk for breast cancer than women who don't. History of cancer. Some women with a history of certain cancers are at increased risk for breast cancer.

This is not a comprehensive list as there are many things that can increase a woman's risk for this condition. Fortunately, some medications (specifically, tamoxifen and raloxifene) are known to reduce the risk of breast cancer. These medicines have some unpleasant side effects, so many doctors will only prescribe these medicines for women who really need them.

Exposure to hormones during hormone therapy treatments can increase the risk of breast cancer as well as other types of cancer and chronic diseases. Women who need hormone therapy should undergo this treatment for only a short amount of time.

Have more questions about how you can prevent breast cancer? Contact Premier Women's Care. We're happy to answer your questions.

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