Why Is Breast Cancer Awareness Important?
With women in the U.S. facing an approximately 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes, awareness of this persistent threat to women’s health is critical. It’s estimated that 252,710 women as well as 2,470 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the U.S. in 2017. Although mortality rates have been declining since the late 1980s, more than 40,000 American women are expected to die of breast cancer this year.
To preserve the life and health of as many potential breast cancer victims as possible, it’s critical to take steps to prevent the illness when possible and detect it early when it does develop. While patients diagnosed with localized breast cancer are 99% as likely as women without breast cancer to survive at least another five years, that likelihood falls to 85% when the cancer has spread beyond its original location and 27% when the cancer has metastasized. Early detection allows cancers to be treated more effectively with less invasive procedures.
What Steps Can I Take to Prevent Breast Cancer?
You can reduce your chances of developing breast cancer by following some of the same advice health professionals give for preventing a wide variety of illnesses and supporting overall good health:
- Keep your weight under control. Excess weight, especially when gained after menopause, is associated with an increased breast cancer risk.
- Exercise regularly. This will naturally help you maintain a healthy weight as well as reduce your risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses.
- Eat a healthy diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day for cancer prevention.
- Limit alcohol intake. Higher levels of alcohol consumption have been linked to higher rates of breast cancer.
- Avoid tobacco. Smoking is associated with increased risk of developing breast cancer, in addition to lung cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
In addition to these general steps to better health, breastfeeding—especially when done for a total at least two years over a woman’s lifetime—has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk. Also, because hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that uses a combination of estrogen and progestin has been found to increase breast cancer risk, you should thoroughly discuss the risks and benefits of any HRT that is recommended for you with your doctor and ensure that you’re getting the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration for your condition.
How Can Breast Cancer Be Detected Early?
For women at average risk of breast cancer, we follow the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, the Society for Breast Imaging, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network in recommending annual mammography beginning at age 40. Some women, however, face a greater than average risk. For example, a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is nearly double when her mother, daughter, or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Women at higher risk should consult with their doctors to determine the most appropriate screening regimen for their circumstances. Recommendations may include genetic testing, additional imaging with MRI, and other measures aimed at reducing breast cancer risk.
In addition to regular breast cancer screenings, it’s important to be able to recognize warning signs of breast cancer. If you notice any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor without waiting for your next mammogram:
- New, localized breast pain that doesn’t go away (cyclic pain is often normal)
- A new lump or area of breast tissue that seems different from the rest
- Redness, swelling, or thickening of the skin on the breast
- Change in breast shape, size, or skin texture
- Nipple discharge that appears without squeezing or is bloody
At Iowa Radiology, we proudly offer 3-D mammography using Hologic C-View technology, which allows us to obtain clear, detailed, three-dimensional images using a low radiation dose similar to that of a standard 2-D digital mammogram. Click the link below to schedule your annual mammogram with us.
 Duke Medicine. "Less invasive treatment is associated with improved survival in early stage breast cancer." Science Daily. 28 Jan 2013. Accessed 28 Aug 2017.
 "ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity." Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, 13 April 2017. Accessed 28 Aug 2017.
 "ACR and SBI Continue to Recommend Regular Mammography Starting at Age 40." ACR.org.American College of Radiology, 20 Oct 2015. Accessed 28 Aug 2017.
 "Breast Cancer Screening for Women at Average Risk." Komen.org. Susan G Komen, 23 July 2016. Web. Accessed 28 Aug 2017.
Image by Audrey, "Pink in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month." via Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
The information contained in the Iowa Radiology website is presented as public service information only. It is not intended to be nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you think you may have a medical problem before starting any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding your medical condition.
Iowa Radiology occasionally supplies links to other web sites as a service to its readers and is not in any way responsible for information provided by other organizations.