Women born in the United States have a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. While doctors and researchers don’t completely understand the causes, they do know women can reduce their risk in several ways.
To learn more, continue reading below about risk factors, breast cancer prevention and screening, and the benefits of early detection.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. That’s why, at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, we encourage you to learn as much as possible on breast cancer causes, risks and family history.
Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but you may be able to lower your chance of developing it by taking steps to:
- Reduce your controllable risk factors
- Increase protective factors
If you have risk factors that you cannot control, such as a family history of breast cancer, talk with your physician about additional ways to reduce your risk.
Early detection of breast cancer — when it’s still small and hasn’t spread beyond the breast — can be easier to treat and lead to a more successful outcome. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer is close to 100%.
Breast cancer screening can help find breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear. It’s important to have regular screenings to detect and stop breast cancer in its tracks. Mammography, which compresses the breast between two plates and then takes X-ray images, is the most common screening exam for early detection of breast cancer.
Scripps recommends the following breast cancer screening exams.
Age 20 to 39
- Clinical breast exam every one to three years with a health care provider who checks for lumps or other changes
Age 40 and older
- Clinical breast exam every year
- Mammogram every year
Women at increased risk
If you have risk factors for breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you begin screening sooner, have additional tests or get screened more often.
If you have breast implants or have been told you have dense breast tissue (which means you have less fat tissue in your breasts), you may need additional screening. Your physician will let you know what you need.