Six Surprising Facts about Breast Cancer Risk
Breast cancer is more common than you would think. Most people get worried about breast cancer when a member of their family is diagnosed. They have heard that breast cancer is largely genetic. While risk goes up for those with a family history, only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are inherited.
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and it’s the second leading cancer death in women in the U.S. That’s why the American College of Radiology recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40. Annual screening mammograms allow doctors to compare your mammograms from year to year and catch potentially concerning tumors earlier.
Screening makes a big difference. Regular clinical breast exams and regular screening mammograms help detect breast cancer earlier, which makes breast cancer treatment more manageable for many people. Speak with your provider about what is best for you.
Breast cancer affects both men and women of all ages. While far less common, men can have breast cancer, too. Many of us think breast cancer is only a concern for older people, but it affects people of all ages.
The risk of breast cancer goes up for women with dense breast tissue. Do you know whether your breast tissue is dense? A mammogram is the best way to know for sure. It is important information, as tumors are harder to spot in dense breast tissue. Knowing your breast density helps you and your providers make good decisions about how often you should get screened.
Breast Cancer Disparities. According to komen.org, Hispanic/Latina women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer later than white women. Uninsured women have lower rates of breast cancer screening compared to those with health insurance. Cancer-network.org reports LGBTQ+ community members have been shown to be significantly less likely to receive a mammogram due to past negative experiences when seeking medical care or health insurance coverage issues.
The healthy activities add up. All of the things we do to keep ourselves in shape make a real difference when it comes to breast cancer risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, especially during menopause; getting plenty of physical activity; avoiding alcohol; and getting an annual screening mammogram are great defenses against developing a serious case of breast cancer.
VT: YOU FIRST/Vermont Department of Health www.YouFirstVT.org 800-508-2222
NY: Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program Breast and/or Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (ny.gov)
MA: Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings | Mass.gov
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
Susan G. Komen: www.komen.org
National Cancer Institute: Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Patient Version - NCI
Rebecca Hewson-Steller, RN, CN-BN, is a nurse navigator at the SVMC Cancer Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.