Breast Cancer: Early Detection and Prevention Tips

Breast Cancer Image

Did you know, other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women? Breast cancer causes more than 42,000 deaths each year. It is important for women, especially those with a family history of breast cancer, to know the signs of breast cancer and understand the importance of early detection and prevention. Luckily, looking after your health and watching out for breast cancer is very simple, and can make the difference between early detection and late diagnosis.

Why is Early Detection Important?

Early detection of cancer, including breast cancer, is vital to treatment as early detection prevents further spread of cancerous cells throughout the body. When cancer is detected early, the affecting area can be safely removed or treated much less aggressively than if the cancer were more developed and with very positive treatment outcomes. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer gives patients the best possible chance of survival.

How do I Detect Breast Cancer Early?

Self-Examination: One of the simplest and easiest ways to detect breast cancer early is through self-examination. You are an expert on your breasts, and you should be! By understanding what your breast tissue naturally feels like, noting firmness, shape, and the presence or absence of any lumps, you can be the first to notice any changes in your breast tissue and bring these developments to your doctor. By screening your breasts every so often, you can effectively improve your odds of breast cancer detection from the comfort of your own home.

Clinical Breast Examination: Like a self-examination, a clinical breast examination involves feeling the breasts for abnormalities or changes in breast tissue over time, however, a clinical breast examination is completed by a physician on an annual or semiannual basis, depending on risk level. Usually, your OB/GYN will perform a physical examination of your breasts, nipples, and armpit during your annual check-up and make determinations for follow-up imaging or additional testing as needed. This is a great time to bring up any changes you’ve noticed since your last appointment.

Mammograms: Mammograms are a further tool used to detect breast cancer in women above 45 or women 40 years or older with a family history of breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of your breast, which provides a doctor with a more accurate look at breast tissue changes, especially those which can’t be felt. Women 45 to 54 should receive mammogram testing every year. Once a woman is 55, she can opt for mammogram testing every other year but may still choose to receive an annual examination.

Breast Cancer Prevention:

In addition to early detection, breast cancer prevention is also crucial, especially for younger women. Maintaining a healthy weight, participating in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, avoiding or limiting alcohol intake are all recommended to limit a women’s risk of breast cancer.

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  1. American Cancer Society. December 16, 2021. “Can I Lower my Risk of Breast Cancer?
  2. American Cancer Society. January 14, 2022. “American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Posted in: Women's Health

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