February 15, 2019 by John Fernandez and Tanya Racoobian
Breast Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know
The saying — “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — coined by Benjamin Franklin hundreds of years ago rings true with many health conditions today, including breast cancer. When it comes to breast cancer prevention, awareness and living healthy are at the top of the list.
“While age – getting older – is one of the top risk factors for breast cancer, there are a multitude of risk factors that we can act on,” said Jane Mendez, M.D., chief of breast surgery at Miami Cancer Institute.
American Cancer Society (ACS) research says about 42 percent of cancer cases and 45 percent of cancer deaths in the United States are linked to modifiable risk factors – making them preventable. Like other cancers, breast cancer prevention has a lot to do with living a healthy lifestyle. Adopting specific healthy habits can extend a man’s life expectancy by 14 years and add an average of 12 years to women’s lives, according to a study published earlier this year in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. They include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Not smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting alcohol
In addition to following these healthy habits, doctors recommend a few other preventive measures to help reduce a person’s risk of breast cancer.
Annual Mammograms Starting at Age 40
Despite controversy in recent years about the age at which screening for breast cancer should begin, Baptist Health South Florida, along with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and American College of Radiology (ACR), continues to support annual mammograms for women at average risk starting at age 40.
One in six breast cancers occur in women age 40-49, according to the ACS. Mammograms save lives in all women, and specifically in women ages 40-45. When breast cancer is found early and in a localized state, the five-year survival rate is near 100 percent, according to the National Breast Center Foundation.
“Although each person has their own risk factors and family history, I educate patients to start having mammograms done at age 40 and annually thereafter,” said Dr. Mendez. “And there’s no limit by which a lady should have her last mammogram providing she’s healthy and can have treatment if something is detected. There’s no age limit for mammography.”
Genes and Family History
A patient’s ethnicity and personal and family history of cancer should also go into the equation to determine when a woman should start having screening mammograms, said Starr Mautner, M.D., a breast surgeon at Miami Cancer Institute. Physicians may decide to screen a woman earlier if a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age.
Although family history of breast cancer accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 60 percent of cancers found in women 40-44 years old and 45-49 years old is invasive, according to ACS and USPSTF research.
“The role BRCA gene mutations play, especially in younger women, is important to note,” Dr. Mautner said. “Women who are genetic mutation carriers, or who have first degree relatives diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer, are recommended to start screening mammograms before the age of 40.”
And for young women who do not meet criteria to start mammograms before the age of 40, Dr. Mautner stresses the importance of self-exam, familiarity with family history and general knowledge of breast cancer as steps they can take to start screening early.
“It’s important that women of all ages – from teenagers and young adults to older women – have a general understanding of breast cancer, the signs and symptoms and what to do if they feel something abnormal,” Dr. Mautner adds. “If a mass is found either by the patient or by her physician, it should be taken seriously and worked up with appropriate imaging and biopsied when warranted.”
Live Without Doubts. Be Sure. Get a Mammogram Today
When breast cancer is detected early, at a localized stage, the survival rate is 98 percent. In conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Baptist Health is offering special mammogram pricing in October to patients without insurance. Through October 31, 2018, a screening mammogram is $50, and a diagnostic mammogram is $100. The radiologist’s fee for 3D mammogram is included in the special prices. To schedule an appointment, call 786-573-6000 in Miami-Dade or Broward, 305-434-1588 in Monroe, 561-374-5300 in Palm Beach or visit BaptistHealth.net/BreastHealth.