Family Breast Cancer History: When Is the Best Time to Get a Screening

Mother DaughterA woman in the U.S. has about a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Except for skin cancer, this is the most common cancer in women. And your risk may be greater if you have a family history of the disease.

What Does Having a Relative with Breast Cancer Mean for You?

Your family history can affect your risk of having breast cancer. You may have an abnormal gene (such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2) that plays a role in the development of this disease.

If you’re a woman who has had a close relative with breast cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing the disease. Your breast cancer risk is doubled if your sister, mother, or daughter has had the disease. If two of these relatives have had breast cancer, your risk of developing it is 5 times higher than average.

Men can also get breast cancer, and if you have a brother or father who has had it, your risk is also higher, although it’s not known by how much.

What Steps Can You Take to Avoid Getting Breast Cancer?

Although you obviously can’t control your family history, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, including the following:

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

If you’re overweight or obese, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, especially after menopause. You also have a higher risk of it recurring once you have the disease.

Getting Regular Exercise

Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces the number of fat cells you have. These make extra estrogen, which can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can increase younger women’s breast cancer risk, and heavy exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk for post-menopausal women.

Developing a Healthy Diet

A varied, healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can help boost your immune system. You may also want to eat food that’s grown without pesticides.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Three alcohol drinks a week can increase your risk of getting breast cancer by 15%. It can increase estrogen levels and may also damage cellular DNA.

Try Hormonal Therapies

Several different hormonal therapies can be used to reduce the risk of developing certain types of breast cancer if you have an elevated risk. Your doctor can help you determine whether hormone therapy is right for you.

Frequent Screenings

Your doctor can recommend more frequent screenings if your family history puts you at higher risk of developing breast cancer. These can include breast self-exams, breast exams by your doctor, mammograms, MRIs, and ultrasounds.

When Should You Start Getting Screened?

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, your doctor may recommend the following testing schedule:

  • A yearly mammogram, typically starting at age 30
  • A yearly MRI, typically starting at age 30

In addition, all women, especially those at high risk, should be familiar with how their breasts look and feel. If any changes are noticed, you should see your doctor.

To receive a mammogram, contact PURE Mammography. No appointment is necessary, and you don’t need a referral. Call or drop by, and you’ll receive a same-day mammogram.

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