October is winding down, but breast cancer isn’t. Even after Breast Cancer Awareness Month ends, it’s always a good time to remember the ways you can decrease your risk of getting the most common form of cancer in women.
“It’s recommended women between 50 and 74 who are not at increased risk for cancer receive a mammogram every other year,” said Stephanie Ghojallu, co-director of St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care-Bucyrus Campus Medical Clinic, 2450 W. North Ave.
The decision to screen for breast cancer earlier than age 50 should be made with your medical provider.
“If patients don’t have insurance that covers mammograms, they can visit our clinic for a referral to the Wisconsin Well Women’s Program,” said Ghojallu, a family practice nurse practitioner. The program provides free mammograms to women who require screening or have had an abnormal finding on a breast exam.
The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. But there are things you can do to decrease your risk of developing the disease.
Limit alcohol. The more alcohol—beer, wine and liquor—you drink, the greater your risk for breast cancer. It’s best to limit yourself to less than one drink per day.
Eat right. Research suggests a healthy diet can affect risk of cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2-1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day, choosing whole grain over refined grain products and limiting processed and red meats.
Don’t smoke. Smoking causes a number of diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women. Research also has shown that there may be a link between heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
Know your density. Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more non-fatty tissue compared to breasts that aren’t dense. Dense breasts can make it more difficult for mammograms to detect cancer. Doctors may ask you to consider adding MRI, ultrasound or higher-contrast digital mammography to your screening routine.
Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. It also increases the risk of recurrence in women who have had the disease.
Get moving. Regular exercise helps reduce breast cancer risk. For healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
Breastfeed. Breastfeeding has been linked to breast cancer prevention. The longer you breastfeed over one year, the greater the protection.
Limit hormone therapy. Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of breast cancer. If you decide that the benefits of hormone therapy outweigh the risks, determine the smallest dose that will be helpful, and take it for the shortest time possible.
Know your family cancer history. Look at the occurrence of all kinds of cancer on both sides of your family. Multiple diagnoses on either side can be a clue to a hereditary link.
The Bucyrus Campus Community Medical Clinic is a unique health care home for the neighborhood, with an emphasis on health education, wellness and preventative medicine. The clinic is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For information or to make an appointment, call 414-210-2430 or visit stanncenter.org/clinic.