Breast Cancer: Risk, Detection and Prevention

Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other form of cancer except skin cancer.  Breast cancer is the fourth highest cause of cancer death in the United States according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Know Your Risk:

The exact causes of breast cancer are still unknown.  Doctors cannot explain why one woman develops the disease and another does not.   However, some risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Estrogen
  • Hormone replacement therapy/Hormone therapy
  • Exposure to Radiation
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol
  • Family history

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) established a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to assess your risk of breast cancer. This tool was designed for a clinical interpretation so it is important to understand your cancer risk prior to taking the self-assessment, and to talk with your doctor about your results.

Lowering your risk:

Some ways to possibly lower your risk for developing breast cancer include:

  • Controlling your weight and increasing exercise
  • Knowing your family history of breast cancer
  • Knowing the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy
  • Limiting your alcohol intake

Analyzing the Cancer Risk Media:

It seems that the media is constantly reporting on the latest cancer findings. It can be very difficult to determine what information is accurate and what is relevant to you.  Make sure you write down all your questions and talk with your provider about what information is relevant and important.

Early Detection:

Early detection is so important in fighting breast cancer. Treatment is less aggressive and better tolerated when the disease is detected early. Over the past few years there has been some confusing media around when and how often women should get a mammogram. Below are three leading groups in breast cancer and their recommendations for mammograms:

  • mammogram annually.
  • Susan G. Komen: “Susan G. Komen for the Cure wants to eliminate any impediments to regular mammography screening for women age 40 and older. While there is no question that mammograms save lives for women over 50 and women 40–49, there is enough uncertainty about the age at which mammography should begin and the frequency of screening that we would not want to see a change in policy for screening mammography at this time.”

A Breast Self-Examination (BSE) is another tool for early detection. The BSE must be done with some level of skill and the current consensus is that BSE should be used in combination with other breast cancer screening modalities such as a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) and mammography. A CBE is similar to a BSE, however, it is performed by a trained healthcare provider.

If you need a doctor or mammography location please download iTriage for your iPhone or Android or use on the web.


There is no successful way to prevent breast cancer.  “Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer” according to the NCI.  There are many factors that we have yet to discover and many risk factors that are out of our control.  The best advice is to know your risk factors for the disease, stay vigilant about breast cancer detection and consult your doctor if you suspect any changes in your breasts.


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