The average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is 98% survival rate if detected early.
Breast health doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take control of your health by taking these simple steps.
1. Understand your risk
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Obesity – obese women have a higher proportion of body fat and estrogen. Estrogen is linked to breast cancer risk.
- Personal history – if you have a history of breast cancer, or a BRCA gene mutation. Having ovarian, colon, or endometrial cancer also increases breast cancer risk.
- Family history – if your mother, sister, or daughter had breast cancer and/or a BRCA gene mutation. Risk increases if your relative had cancer in both breasts or before menopause.
- Pregnancy – having a first pregnancy after age 30 or having no children.
- Estrogen therapy – having hormone therapy for five or more years after menopause can increase your risk.
- Age – growing older is the top risk factor. About 8 out of 10 cases of breast cancer occur in women age 50 and older.
- Menstrual cycle – if you started having periods before age 12 or stopped after age 55.
- Breast density – about 40% of women over age 40 have dense breast tissue that makes it harder to detect cancer on a mammogram. Younger women tend to have denser breasts.
- Alcohol and tobacco – more than one alcoholic drink per day and smoking if you are a younger woman.
2. Look for changes in your breasts once a month
A breast self-exam is a simple process that only takes a few minutes. Start by looking at your breasts to see if they are their normal size, shape and color. Make sure they are evenly-shaped and not swollen. Follow the guidelines listed below to check for unusual changes. If you find anything suspicious, call your health care provider right away.
Where to do it:
- Sit or stand in front of a well-lighted mirror
What to look for:
- Superficial veins that are more visible on one breast than the other.
- Skin dimpling or depression on the surface of a breast.
- Changes in skin texture, appearing rough or like an orange peel.
- Nipple retraction, where the nipple appears to be pulling inward.
- A single, firm lump that is often painless when pressed.
- Any type of unusual fluid discharge from the nipple.
How to do it: Standing in front of your mirror
- Put your hands on your hips. Look for any changes.
- Put your hands on your hips and tense your chest muscles. Look for changes.
- Raise your arms above your head. Take a final look.
3. Feel for changes in your breasts
What to feel for:
- Lumps or thickening of your breast tissue.
How to do it:
- While taking a shower, raise your right arm behind your head.
- Using the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand, make small circular motions to feel for lumps in your right breast and under your armpit.
- Repeat this process to check your left breast with your right hand.
- While lying down, place your right arm behind your head.
- Place a pillow or rolled towel under your right shower.
- Using the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand, make small circular motions to feel for lumps in your right breast.
- Move your fingers around your breast in an up and down pattern, starting under your arm and moving across your breast to the middle of your chest bone.
- Be sure to check your entire breast area: down until you feel only ribs and up to your neck or collar bone.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast using your right hand.
- Check each armpit for any lumps.
If you have breast implants, you can still do the self-exam. Simply move the implant and feel for breast tissue above, below, behind and to the side of the implant.
4. Find a provider
Getting started begins with your physician or primary care provider, who will need to write you a medical order to schedule a mammogram. Memorial Diagnostic Imaging offers the latest testing and technology, giving women an advantage through early detection. Need a physician? Give us a call at (228) 867-5000 or find one here.
5. Get tested regularly
A clinical breast exam is done by your health care provider, usually during a yearly physical exam. Studies show that the breast cancer death rate goes down by as much as 20% in women age 40-64 who have regular clinical breast exams.
During a clinical breast exam, your provider will check your breasts visually and manually. If your health care provider does not perform a breast exam during your physical exam, be sure to ask for one.
6. Schedule your mammogram
A mammogram is an x-ray imaging of your breasts using low-dose radiation. Mammograms are important because they can identify breast cancer early, when lumps are very small and hard to feel.
A screening mammogram looks for breast cancer in women with no symptoms. With a screening mammogram, the radiologist compares your current breast images with any previous images, looking for any changes, cysts, calcifications, or fibroadenomas (solid lumps of normal breast tissue).
When to have a mammogram:
- At age 40-44, you can choose to have one annually
- At age 45-54, you should have one annually
- At age 55 and older, you can choose to have a mammogram every year or every other year
If you are at high risk for developing breast cancer (20% or higher) base on family history or genetics, your health care provider will want you to begin screening at an earlier age.
Schedule your mammogram by calling (228) 867-4395.
7. Download your mammogram discount
Memorial providers and staff are experienced in all types of breast conditions, from the most common to the rare and complex. Our doctors use the most advanced, innovative diagnostic and treatment techniques including advanced imaging techniques like digital and 3D mammograms to provide the best care possible.
8. Challenge 8 women in your life to take these steps
Share these steps with 8 women in your life, and encourage them to take control of their health.
Here are additional tips for staying healthy:
- Get moving – at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity every day may lower your risk of breast cancer by 30%.
- Eat healthy – making a conscious choice to eat healthy has many benefits, including reducing your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Limit alcohol – alcohol has been linked to breast and other cancers. If you want to drink, limit yourself to 3-5 drinks a week.
- Stop smoking – research suggests that smoking in linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.