Breast cancer prevention should be emphasized
What is quite startling is the fact that even highly educated women have big misconceptions about breast cancer prevention. That is why we decided to give you some more info on what doctors want you to know about breast cancer and to shed some light on some generally misinterpreted issues.
- 63 % of women believe that family history is the biggest breast cancer risk factor. In reality, however, most women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Actually, your age is the biggest risk factor. As women get older, their tissue gets older too, which makes the risk of developing the disease bigger. Moreover, with age, women also accumulate more lifetime exposure to estrogen, which also may result in higher breast cancer risk. That is why your chance of being diagnosed increases from 1 in 233 in your 30s to 1 in 29 in your 60s. However, there are simple ways to protect yourself.
Even though, age is a bigger risk factor, having a family history may indeed increase your chances of developing the disease. That is why you should alert your doctor if a family member has had breast cancer (or even some other kind of cancers). In this way you can consider getting screened earlier, and talk about preventive medications and their potential effect on you.
- 40% of women admit that breast cancer is the cancer they worry about most. In reality, you should keep in mind that breast cancer is treatable when it is caught early.
Breast cancer may be the most common cancer in women, but statistics show that lung cancer actually kills the most women every year. You should know that we have a 1 in 20 lifetime risk of dying from lung cancer against 1 in 36 lifetime risk of dying from breast cancer. The reason for that is the fact that breast cancer tends to be caught at earlier, and more treatable stages, than lung and other hard-to-treat cancers (including ovarian). That is why you should get mammograms every year, starting at age 40.
- 39 % of women think that the most important way to catch breast cancer early is by doing a formal breast self-exam (BSE) every month. However, in reality you should know that mammograms are most important. If you don’t believe us, believe the 73 % of docs who say so.
85 % of the doctors say that women should start getting mammograms at 40. Then, they should do that every year or two after the first exam. According to a 2010 study of about 600,000 women in their 40s receiving mammos, the breast cancer death rate among them was lower by 29 %. If you are younger than 50, you should request a digital mammogram, which detects cancers in dense breasts (the kind that younger women usually have) more precisely.
For years major health institutions asked women to perform precise self-exams at home to help themseves find potentially cancerous formations between screenings. However, now a new study indicated no difference in death rates between women who were instructed to do self-exams and those who weren’t.
Breast self-awareness is crucial. This means that women should know how their breasts normally look and feel. So, if there is a new lump or bump, they should tell their doctor immediately.
- 4 % of women believe that weight has the “biggest effect” on breast cancer risk. In reality being overweight or obese increases your risk by 40%.
A recent study revealed that women who gained 20 to 30 pounds after age 18 had a higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than women who gained no more than five pounds. Actually, 78 % of the doctors also claim that weight gain is a big enough risk factor and they advise patients to take measures.
Obviously, many women are influenced by this message since 32 % of them report to have lost weight, and other 57 % say that they exercise to push away the disease. Don’t forget that even going for brisk walks can lower the odds of getting cancer.