Women’s Health: Breast cancer prevention

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in America. One in eight American women, or 13%, will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Early detection in the form of an annual mammogram beginning at age 40, is one of the most important actions a woman can take in the fight against breast cancer, says Saint Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center Community Outreach Nurse, Anne Lawton.

A two-year breast cancer survivor, Lawton, says she was planning an event that encourages Saint Peter’s employees to get a mammogram when she scheduled her own annual mammogram. Radiologists identified changes from Lawton’s previous mammograms, which was later diagnosed as breast cancer.

When and how often should I start getting mammograms?

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

With 30 years of experience as an oncology nurse, a family history of breast cancer, and being overweight, Lawton says she knew it was important to get an annual mammogram despite recommendations for a bi-annual mammogram after the age of 55. Because Lawton was diligent in getting a yearly mammogram, her breast cancer was discovered at an early stage.

Lawton underwent 16 radiation treatments but the early discovery of her breast cancer meant she did not have to get chemotherapy. She says her greatest concern is the women in their 40’s and 50’s are putting off their mammograms because they are too busy. Lawton says women should make their health a priority and get their mammograms in spite of obstacles.

Breast cancer facts

  • Women who have a first-degree relative (ie. daughter, sister, or mother) with breast cancer are twice as likely to get it as well.
  • Approximately 85% of breast cancers diagnosed will be in women with no family history.
  • Black women under the age of 45 are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to white women under the age of 45.
  • Black women are also more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women.
  • Approximately 276,480 cases of invasive and 48,530 cases of non-invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2020.
  • Slightly more than 42,000 women in America will die from breast cancer during 2020.
  • Between 5-10% of breast cancers are connected to a gene mutation, the most common being the BRAC1 (breast cancer 1) and the BRCA2 (breast cancer 2) gene.

*Source: Breastcancer.org

Genetic risk factors

  • Age- two out of three invasive breast cancer diagnoses are found in women over the age of 55.
  • Having dense breast tissue.
  • An early start to menstruation- before age 12.
  • Late menopause- after age 55.
  • Family history.
  • Gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • A previous breast cancer diagnosis.
  • Having a child at a later age or have never given birth.

Environmental and/or lifestyle risk factors

  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Being overweight.
  • Radiation to the chest.

*Source: National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Watch: Christina Arangio’s interview with Saint Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center Community Outreach Nurse, Anne Lawton

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