Every two minutes, a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s 1 out of every 8 women, or 12%. Look around your office, or at your list of friends on your Facebook page. If you have 25 female friends, 3 of them will be diagnosed in their lifetime. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
Fortunately, due to developments in treating, early detection, and understanding of the issue, the mortality rate for breast cancer has been declining since 1989.
While the most significant risk factors for developing breast cancer are age and gender (though men are susceptible as well) there are some things women can do to help reduce risk:
Exercise More: 10-19 hours of physical activity and elevated heart rates per week can lower your risk up to 30%. In fact, physically active women are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are inactive.
Drink Less: Sure, that gin & tonic with friends after work is fun, and helps you let go of the day’s stress, but as a woman, limiting your alcohol intake can reduce your risk.
Know The Signs: You know to do monthly checks. The importance of these checks is not because you know what cancer looks/feels like, but rather to give you a sense of what is normal for your body. If you notice changes in skin texture, unusual swelling, discharge, or other “not normal” signs, even beyond the “lump” sign we are all taught to look out for, make sure you tell your doctor, and discuss options.
Be Your Own Advocate: Don’t wait until there is a reason to talk to the doctor! Create a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor that focuses on your needs going forward. This will allow you to be prepared if you are one of the 12% of women who will be diagnosed. A diagnosis can be very traumatizing. If you’ve made advance plans and discussions, it can ease the burden just slightly.
By working with your doctor on a preventative plan, and being prepared in advance, you can be one of the 2.8 million survivors of breast cancer in the U.S.