Anyone can get breast cancer. The older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer. White women are more likely to get breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.
They also have better chance of survival, primarily because their cancer is usually detected earlier. African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Men can get breast cancer too, although it is rare.
Because no one knows exactly what causes breast cancer, there are no sure ways to prevent it. There are however, steps that every woman can take that may make developing breast cancer less likely.
Leading a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, may help reduce your risk.
All women are at risk for breast cancer. Risk factors are things that increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. They are not necessarily causes of breast cancer.
Having known risk factors account for only a small number of new breast cancer cases every year. That means that most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors except being a woman and getting older.
Some factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer include: getting older, having an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRAC2 breast cancer genes, having a previous biopsy showing hyperplasia or cancer or having a mother, daughter or sister who has breast cancer.
Also, having high breast density on mammogram, being exposed to large amounts of radiation, such as having frequent spine X-rays during scoliosis treatment or treatment for Hodgkin’s disease at an young age or a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Other factors include starting menopause after age 55, never having children, having your first child after age 30, being overweight after menopause or gaining weight as an adult, having more than one drink of alcohol per day, currently or recently using combined estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy or being young at the time of your first period.
The best way to find breast cancer in its earliest stages is to routinely check your breasts for signs and symptoms of the disease. There are three basic methods:
Mammograms are X-ray pictures of the breast. They can find breast cancer in its earliest stages, even before a lump can be felt. All women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year. If you are younger than 40 with a family history of breast cancer or other concerns, talk with your health care provider about when to start getting mammograms.
Clinical Breast Exam is performed by a health care provider who carefully checks your breasts and underarm areas for any lumps or changes that may be present. Many women have a clinical breast exam when they get their Pap test. Women should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years and every year starting at 40.
Breast Self-Exam involves two main steps, looking at and feeling your breasts for any change from normal. If you notice any change in the normal look or feel of your breasts, see your health care provider. All women should perform monthly BSE by age 20. BSE should be done should be done once a month, a few days after your period ends.
The five year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is approximately 90%. Your chances are better if the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of your body. That is why it is so important to take steps to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.