October is breast cancer awareness month. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life. Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in American women, second only to skin cancer, but it can also affect men. This month, nearly 22,000 people in the U.S. will receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
Risk factors for Breast Cancer
There are preventable and non-preventable risk factors for breast cancer. The major non-preventable risk factors for breast cancer are age, sex, race, a family history of breast or ovarian cancers, and genetic mutations. As you age, your risk of developing cancer increases. Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 50. However, breast cancer diagnosed under 45 is possible and more common in black women. Genetics also plays a factor. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you are more likely to develop breast cancer at some point in your life. Another risk factor is genetic mutations.
The Breast Cancer Gene
BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are two genetic mutations linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. However, there are many misconceptions about the BRCA genes. Despite what many think, the BRCA genes do not cause breast cancer, and they are key players in preventing the development of breast cancer. Every person has both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. However, some have mutated or broken BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes, which do not function properly, potentially allowing breast cancer cells to slip through and take hold. Therefore, people with BRCA gene mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer. It is important to note that not all women with BRCA gene mutations will develop cancer.
12% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. You are not alone.
What can you do to decrease your risk?
So what can you do? No one can prevent cancer, but there are some steps you can take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer. You can eliminate preventable risks from your lifestyle, and Avoidable risks include obesity, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, and excessive alcohol use.
Research shows those who live a healthy lifestyle are less likely to develop cancer. A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious, low-fat foods, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol use.
Regular breast cancer screenings are important because many effective treatments for breast cancers are caught in the early stages. In recent years, the guidelines for screening have changed. Yearly mammograms are recommended for women age 45+, though some women choose to begin at age 40.
It is also recommended that all women, beginning at age 20, perform monthly self-checks. Those with increased risk factors need to remain vigilant. Trust your instincts. If something seems wrong, advocate for yourself.
A cancer diagnosis is an overwhelming and frightening time. MyCancerJourney is here to help. Our board-certified navigators are here to help guide you through the overwhelming and confusing process and help you make treatment decisions that are right for you. We harness the power of AI to create a plan for you and your specific factors and preferences based on the data of others with your exact diagnosis and health factors, not just a one-size-fits-all guideline. To start today, fill out an intake form here or call us at 737.307.0077.