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Breast cancer is today’s second leading cause of cancer death in American women (lung cancer is the first). While research continues to see ways to prevent, detect, and treat this disease, it is essential for you to stay informed, so that you can make smart decisions about your health.

Early detection can save lives and increase treatment options. The following breast cancer screening schedule is recommended by the American Cancer Society:

  • Age 40 and over – Mammogram and clinical breast exam yearly
  • Age 20s and 30s – Clinical breast exam about every 3 years
  • Starting in 20s – Choose whether or how often to do breast self-exam

Most women who get breast cancer have no apparent risk factors. However, the genetic and lifestyle risk factors below can increase a person’s chances of having the disease. The more risk factors apply to you, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Female
  • Over 50 years old
  • Caucasian
  • Have had a previous breast cancer or precancerous condition
  • Have a close blood relative with breast and/or ovarian cancer or a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • Have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • Had chest area radiation between the ages of 10 and 30
  • Started menstrual periods before age 12 or reached menopause after age 50
  • Never had children or had first child after age 30
  • Overweight
  • Used hormone replacement therapy for 5 years or more
  • Have one or more drinks of alcohol a day.

For most women, mammography provides the best way to find breast cancer at an early stage. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of your breasts that can detect many changes that are too small or too deep to feel. Annual mammograms are recommended for all women aged 40 and over.

Not all breast lumps are cancerous. Most are benign or harmless. However, all should be checked.

In the United States, breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. The good news is that with early detection and treatment, a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer is greatly improved.


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