Understanding Your Risks for Breast Cancer

While new treatments have emerged to beat breast cancer, it remains one of the three deadliest cancers for women. Some risk factors for breast cancer are out of your control, such as genetics and aging, but others are connected to lifestyle choices and habits. 

At Signature Women’s Healthcare, OB/GYNs Jacquline Hayles-Patterson, MD and Tyndal M. Jones, MD are committed to helping women in Lawrenceville and Lithonia, Georgia stay healthy. To help catch breast cancer early and improve your treatment, our team offers breast exams as part of your well-woman visit.

Education is an important part of staying cancer-free. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn about your risk factors related to the disease. Read on to better understand your risks for breast cancer!   

What are my risk factors for breast cancer?

Early detection of breast cancer is one of the best ways to prevent the disease from progressing. When detected early, the survival rate for breast cancer is over 80% for women in developed countries. 

Understanding your risks of breast cancer improves your chances of early detection. Some risk factors are within your control, meaning you can reduce the odds of developing breast cancer in the first place, while others aren’t.

Risk factors include: 

Your age

As your age increases, so does your risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, two-thirds of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women 55 or older, with the highest risk coming after age 70. Be sure to conduct regular self-exams and attend annual well-woman visits for breast cancer screenings after menopause.

Your genetics

Having a first-degree relation (e.g., mother, sister, daughter) who has or has had breast cancer, doubles your risk of developing breast cancer. Everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but sometimes these genes have mutations that are passed through family lines. This increases your chances of getting breast cancer. Mutated BRCA genes account for about 10% of all breast cancer cases.

Your weight and physical activity level

High levels of estrogen can cause the development of some types of breast cancer. Estrogen is linked to fat, so the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you produce. This is why being overweight or obese increases your odds of getting breast cancer.  

A lack of regular physical activity has also been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. To mitigate your risk, engage in moderate or high-intensity exercise for 4-7 hours each week.

Your smoking habits 

Research indicates that smoking not only increases your chances of getting breast cancer, but it also increases your risk of developing complications during treatment. Living with someone who smokes can also impact your chances of getting breast cancer.

Your menstrual history

The earlier you started your menstrual cycle, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. The same is true for women who go through menopause late. If you got your first period before 12 or didn’t go through menopause until after 55, you have a higher chance of a breast cancer diagnosis.

How can I learn more about my risks for breast cancer?

If you’re concerned about breast cancer, talk to your OB/GYN at Signature Women’s Healthcare. Your provider evaluates your medical and family history and discusses different lifestyle habits with you to better understand your risks. 

Higher-risk patients are usually sent for mammograms earlier and more often, and we may recommend specific genetic testing or certain medications. Our team can also refer you to specialists for more customized breast cancer care.     

Concerned about breast cancer? Schedule an appointment during Breast Cancer Awareness Month by calling the Signature Women’s Healthcare office nearest you or by booking with us online today! 

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