Ways to Reduce Your Risk
About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are considered hereditary, which means there is a genetic explanation for the disease. That means 90 to 95 percent of breast cancers are not hereditary. Yet, even if breast cancer runs in your family, or you have other risk factors, there are plenty of ways to reduce your risk. What you eat and drink, your level of activity and other lifestyle behaviors all affect your risk for cancer.
Breast cancer begins when normal cells in the breast begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, making it one of the most common types of cancer for women. Although rare, roughly 2,500 men are also diagnosed each year.
Northwestern Medicine offers many programs and services focused on breast cancer detection and treatment, all conveniently located throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
Stay on Top of Your Exams
As with any cancer, early detection is key. Symptoms of breast cancer can sometimes include a lump that feels like a hard knot or thickening in the breast or under the arm, or a change in the appearance of your breast such as dimpling or an indentation. Your monthly self-exam is one of the simplest ways to catch lumps that could be breast cancer. However, if you do find a lump, don’t panic. It’s important to know that eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. Schedule an appointment with your physician to investigate it.
Mammography continues to pave the way for better detection. In a screening mammogram, two standard views of each breast are taken to detect lumps too small or too deep to feel. Clearer imaging offered by 3D mammography has greater accuracy and leads to fewer false positives. Nurse Practitioner at Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center, Barbara Guido, APN-CNP, says 3D mammography is especially important in women with dense breasts, which have less fatty tissue and are more likely to develop cancer.
Understand Your Risk
Knowing your personal risk for developing breast cancer can help guide your lifestyle choices. If you have concerns about a family history of breast cancer, the Cancer Genetics Program — a collaborative effort between Northwestern Medicine and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University — provides risk assessment, surveillance and management recommendations for individuals and families at increased risk for developing cancer due to their personal or family history. Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group Breast Disease and Surgery also offers genetic testing and counseling. High-risk breast clinics are also available to guide you as well as provide the most personalized, advanced breast care in the region. Advanced practice nurse for breast cancer risk and prevention Spring Piatek, APN, AOCNS, CBCN, CBEC, says the clinic is available to help address questions may have about their breast tissue density and how genetics may influence their risk for developing breast cancer. “Our purpose is to offer a comprehensive clinic where people can sit down to really discuss their risk and what they should be doing,” says Piatek. Find a location near you.
Reduce Your Risk
Once you have a better understanding of your risk, it’s time to re-evaluate and see where you can make healthier choices. Obesity has been associated with increased risk of 13 types of cancer. Additionally, diet is responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancers. Start with small lifestyle changes, like swapping fresh greens instead of fries as your side.
Here are some other ways to reduce your risk: