What is All the Fuss About Breast Cancer?

These are the questions I get: “What is all the fuss about breast cancer?”, “What is a mammogram?”, “When should I have one done?”, “Why should I care?” The simple truth is breast cancer is the second most common cancer among US women. With that in mind, this is what you need to know.

Have a preventive screening mammogram performed after you turn 40-years-old.

Age 40 is when you are at an increased rate for developing breast cancer. The incidence and death rates of breast cancer increase with age. In 2015, the American Cancer Society reported that “a woman living in the US has a 12.3%, or a 1 in 8, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer”. Regular mammograms can reduce breast cancer deaths up to 48% for women ages 40 to 79.

Typically, there are no symptoms when you develop a small, cancerous lump in your breast. This is why a mammogram can help with detecting these early changes in your breast. If you notice any abnormal changes in your breast, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. In recent years, there has been a decline in breast cancer mortality and it is attributed to early detection combined with improvements in breast cancer treatments.

Risk factors and what you can do about it.

There are non-modifiable risk factors you can not change: age and gender (the two most significant risk factors), family history of breast cancer (especially in first degree relatives), genetic predisposition (inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene), early menarche, and late menopause. The Breast Cancer Organization (2016) reported that “about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations”.

Luckily, there are modifiable risk factors you can change: postmenopausal obesity (risk of breast cancer is 1.5 times higher in overweight women and about 2 times higher in obese women), use of hormone replacement therapy (estrogen plus progesterone), smoking tobacco, and alcohol consumption.

What you can do to lower your risk.

  • maintain a healthy weight through regular physical activity and a healthy diet
  • limit consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • stop smoking tobacco
  • breastfeed, if possible
  • consult your provider about hormone replacement therapy, know the benefits and risks
  • consult your provider about screening mammograms (taking under consideration your risk factors, medical conditions and family history)

The American Cancer Society (2015) reported that “women who get regular physical activity have a 10%-25% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive, with stronger evidence for postmenopausal than premenopausal women”. Which means that maintaining a regular physical activity schedule can help you with lowering your breast cancer risk once you reach menopause.

For more information about breast cancer, please visit: www.breastcancer.org

Karolina Priebe, DNP, APRN, FNP-C practices as a nurse practitioner at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine. To make an appointment with Priebe, call our front desk at 907.452.3600!