Who Has a Higher Risk?
Some young women are at a higher risk for getting breast cancer at an early age compared with other women their age. If you are a woman younger than age 45, you may have a higher risk if …
- You have close relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer (particularly at age 45 or younger)
- You have changes in certain breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2)
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
- You were treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest in childhood or early adulthood
- You have had breast cancer or other breast health problems such as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia or atypical lobular hyperplasia
Can you reduce your risk?
Many factors can influence your breast cancer risk, and most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors or a history of the disease in their families. However, you can lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways …
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day
- Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens)
- Try to reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests like mammograms, X-rays, CT scans and PET scans
- If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you
- Breastfeed your babies, if possible
Schedule your mammogram.
What to Expect
If you’re 40 or older, or if you are at an increased risk for breast cancer, it’s time to have a mammogram. It’s not the most pleasant experience, but it’s certainly bearable, considering it can save your life.
Learn what to expect during a screening mammogram by listening to Cate Tyson talk about her first experience.
Experts recommend doing a breast self-examination once a month.
Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. If you see any bulging of the skin, a nipple that has changed position, redness or swelling, bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Step 2: Now, raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.
Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.