If you are a woman, you are at risk of developing breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the disease completely, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risks of developing breast cancer.
A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing cancer. While risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Certain risk factors of breast cancer can be controlled while others cannot.
There are lifestyle choices that can influence some breast cancer risks. This means they involve personal behaviors and the choices you make. If you’re concerned about developing breast cancer, you can make changes to reduce your risk. Below are common lifestyle risk factors – and how you can reduce them.
In some cases, risk factors are based on your genes, meaning you were born with them (inherited). Genetic risk factors of breast cancer can include:
Remember, having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that you will develop breast cancer. However, it’s essential to know as much about factors that can influence your breast cancer risk. Early detection is critical, so take charge of your health by making sure to have regular breast cancer screenings. If you develop breast cancer, the earlier it’s detected, the better the likelihood of a positive outcome. Learn more about breast cancer detection and diagnosis.
Women and men can take charge of their health by performing routine breast self-exams and reporting anything abnormal to their doctor.
Talk with your health care provider about when you should begin routine mammograms. You may be advised to start screenings sooner if you have a family history of the disease. However, it’s estimated that 85% of women who develop breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors—that’s why regular screening is so important.
Early detection often means less treatment for patients and better outcomes. The most recent advancement in mammography, 3D imaging, can catch cancer in its earliest form and is especially useful in identifying cancer in those with dense breast tissue. Studies show that 3D mammography also reduces the number of women being called back for false positive test results.
If you feel you may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer due to lifestyle, consider discussing this with your primary doctor about the things you can control. To learn more about genetic testing and if it may be beneficial, talk with your oncologist or a member of your cancer care team who can tell you more about the genetic testing program at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center.