Ask the Expert: How can I Minimize my Risk of Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer Guidelines
- Breast Self-Exams. Although monthly self-exams have been controversial, most women do find breast lumps themselves. Examine your breasts each month after age 20. You will become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes. The best time to examine your breasts is after your menstrual cycle is finished.
- Clinical Breast Exams. Have your breasts examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that may not be detected by mammogram.
- Mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends having a screening mammogram every year after age 40. You must have a referral/prescription from your physician when calling to schedule your mammogram appointment. Depending on your risks, family history, or BRCA1, your physician may decide to order an earlier mammogram at age 35 or 40. Mammograms are an important part of your health history. If you move and/or go to another healthcare provider, take the film (mammogram) with you. If you are not at high risk for breast cancer, obtain a mammogram every 2 years after age 50.
Minimize Your Risk of Breast Cancer
While all women are at risk of developing breast cancer, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk of breast cancer.
10 Steps to Minimize Breast Cancer Risk
- Maintain your ideal body weight. Cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, stomach, breast and colon has been associated with obesity.
- Vary your daily diet. Eat in moderation with a wide variety of food choices.
- Eat at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A good rule of thumb is to eat at least three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day. There are different bioactive ingredients in the pigment of fruits and vegetables that may reduce cancer risks.
- Eat food that is high in dietary fiber. High-fiber foods include whole grain cereals, legumes and vegetables.
- Minimize your daily fat intake. Ideally, 25-30 grams of fat are enough. You want to avoid gaining weight, another risk factor for breast cancer.
- Ask your doctor about risk assessment. Find out if you are a candidate for chemoprevention of breast cancer. The FDA has approved two medications to reduce the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Get your vitamin D. Take at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. If your levels are low, ask your doctor to recommend a dosage to meet your specific needs.
- Remember, moderation is important. Alcohol intake can increase your chance of getting breast cancer if you are over 50 and drink two or more drinks per day.
- Stick to a regular exercise program (four to five times a week) or initiate regular activity such as walking.
- If you smoke, STOP. If you are around someone who smokes, avoid the second hand smoke. People who quit smoking – regardless of age – live longer than those who continue to smoke.
More Accurate Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Evaluation
We’re starting to see a change in the mortality rate from breast cancer. We have seen improvements in diagnostic tools, there are many more drugs and radiation therapies than there were even five years ago. Surgical procedures have advanced to the point that we can often remove less breast tissue, preserve the nipple and offer a better cosmetic result than in the past. We continue to study promising new treatments, including a single intraoperative radiation treatment that may replace several weeks of radiation treatment in low-risk breast cancer patients.