October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), which is an annual movement to raise awareness and aid in the early detection of the disease. Breast cancer develops when damaged cells build up and form a lump or tumor in the breast. These cells can break away and spread to other tissues in the body through the blood vessels and lymph vessels. The prevention of breast cancer begins with a healthy lifestyle.

There are several steps one can take to avoid developing breast cancer, all of which improve your overall health. As with many other cancers, smoking can increase ones risk for developing breast cancer. In addition to leading a tobacco-free lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight by exercising regularly, (about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week), and eating a balanced diet, (avoiding foods high in saturated fat), have been shown to reduce ones risk for developing breast cancer.

Early detection is key for every woman and saves thousands of lives each year. Breast cancer can be diagnosed early on through screenings such as breast self-examinations, clinical breast examinations, and mammograms. These methods can prevent the spread of the disease to parts of the body other than the breasts.

Did You Know

  • There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of death among women
  • According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, as little as three hours of exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day, can lower one’s risk of  breast cancer

Breast Exam Screening Guidelines

  • 20 years of age: Start monthly breast self-exams. By doing the exam regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel and you can more readily find any changes
  • 20-39 years of age: a clinical breast exam should be performed at least once every 3 years
  • 40 years of age: an annual mammogram and breast exam are recommended
  • Younger women at high risk should talk to their doctor about screening options. Mammography has been critical to early detection and improved outcomes.


Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, The American Cancer Society, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For medical advice, consult your physician. Feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.