Breast Cancer Prevention

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Introduction to breast cancer prevention

As is the case for most cancers, the exact cause of breast cancer is not clearly known. Furthermore, there is currently no cure for advanced disease, and there is no definitive way of preventing it.

Breast cancer affects men and women. Male breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers. Around 230,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in women in the U.S.

Our knowledge of how breast cancer develops is expanding rapidly. As a result, new medications are being developed to reduce the risk of breast cancer among those at high risk of contracting this disease. For the majority of women, lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, exercise, and weight reduction can also help reduce the chance of developing breast cancer as well as other cancers and illnesses. To date, the most important strategy in improving survival is still breast cancer screening and early detection. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. The leading cause is lung cancer. One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer. The risk is even higher for women with previous breast cancer, those who have first-degree relatives with breast cancer, those with multiple family members with cancer, and those who have inherited "cancer genes."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2015

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Breast Cancer Prevention - Mammograms Question: How often do you get a mammogram? How old were you when you received your first screening?
Breast Cancer Prevention - Genetic Tests Question: Does your family have a history of breast or other cancers? Have any relatives been tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes?
Breast Cancer Prevention - Early Detection Question: Were you diagnosed with early stage breast cancer? If so, what was the treatment?
Breast Cancer Prevention - Foods Question: Are you eating certain foods to reduce your risk of breast cancer?

Breast Cancer Prevention: Screening

With the use of screening mammograms, more and more breast cancers are being detected at an early and curable stage. Mammograms and breast examinations are the most important screening tests for breast cancer. Mammograms can identify many tumors that are too small to be felt by the patient; up to 90% of breast cancers can be found by mammography.

Guidelines for mammography

  • Experts are not in full agreement about when a woman should begin having mammograms. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a first mammogram for all women by age 40, and annual mammograms for women 40 and older.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against routine mammography for women before 50 years of age.
  • However, women at high risk for breast cancer may need to begin having mammograms earlier in life, and may undergo screening recommended for their individual situation.