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Breast Cancer, In Brief

Risk factors, screening options and other things every woman should know


One in eight women will develop breast cancer over their lifetime. Approximately 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. But a breast cancer diagnosis isn’t just a roll of the dice and some risk factors are within your control.

Top three risk factors

Extra lbs - More fat tissue and higher levels of insulin are associated with a rate of postmenopausal breast cancer 1.5 to 2 times higher than women at a healthy weight. One more reason to trim down.

Physical inactivity - Need more motivation to get moving? Research shows that women who get regular exercise lower their risk of developing breast cancer by 10-20% over nonexercisers.

Alcohol - That daily glass or two of wine might not be such a great idea. Compared to nondrinkers, women who consume 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day have a 20% greater chance of developing breast cancer. That’s because alcohol raises estrogen and androgen levels, which are associated with increased risk of cancer.

A screening can save your life

An annual mammogram beginning at age 40 is still the best option for detecting cancer early and reducing breast cancer fatalities. (Some organizations also recommend yearly clinical breast exams, for women of all ages.)

There are two different kinds of mammogram screenings available: Digital mammography and 3D mammography. 3D mammography allows a radiologist to examine tissue more closely. When used in conjunction with digital mammography, it can detect up to 40% more invasive cancers.

Something's suspicious? Don't panic.

An abnormality isn't a diagnosis. Most women called back for furthur testing end up being cancer-free. Whether your doctor recommends a further diagnostic test, like an MRI or ultrasound, or suggests a biopsy, most follow-up procedures are relatively painless and quick. 

If you do have breast cancer, early detection and diagnosis are the best tools in your toolbox. When localized breast cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 99%. Talk to your doctor about any additional concers you may have.  

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