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Breast Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know

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.,  [1]chief of breast surgery at Miami Cancer Institute [2].

American Cancer Society [3] (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 [4]. They include:

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), the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the 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.”

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 a screening [2] mammogram, said Starr Mautner, M.D. [10], a breast surgeon at Miami Cancer Institute [11]. Physicians may decide to screen a woman earlier if a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age.

For young women who do not meet criteria to start mammograms before the age of 40, Dr. Mautner stresses the importance of self-exam [12], familiarity with family history and general knowledge [13] 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.”

Screening Guidelines

Here are breast cancer screening guidelines from the American Society of Breast Surgeons:

  1. Women age 25 or older should undergo formal risk assessment for breast cancer.
  2. Women with an average risk of breast cancer should initiate yearly screening mammography at age 40.
  3. Women with a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer should undergo yearly screening mammography and be offered yearly supplemental imaging; this screening should be initiated at a risk-based age.
  4. Screening mammography should cease when life expectancy is less than 10 years.

Based on Your Level of Risk

Special Mammogram Pricing

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as part of our ongoing commitment to expanding care in our community, Baptist Health is offering special pricing for mammograms for those without insurance throughout October. A screening mammogram is $50 and a diagnostic mammogram is $100, including the radiologist’s fee and 3-D mammography. The offer is available throughout Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties. A prescription is required.

For patients who don’t have a referring physician: call 786-596-2464 in Miami-Dade, Broward or Monroe; or call Bethesda Women’s Health Center in Palm Beach at 561-374-5300. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, visit BaptistHealth.net/BreastHealth [14]. For appointments in Palm Beach, visit BethesdaWeb.com/BreastHealth [15]. Boca locations will also be participating – for more details please call 561-955-4700.