One in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  Do you know whether you are at risk of being that one out of eight? According to Surupa Sen Gupta, MD, breast surgeon with Adventist HealthCare, several factors contribute to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. “There are genetic and lifestyle factors but the biggest risk factors are age and just being a woman.”

Other risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Dense breast tissue
  • History of smoking
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Being overweight

Breast Cancer Screening – Why Mammograms Matter

Mammograms are the most reliable tool for catching breast cancer early. “Mammograms have been proven to save lives by finding breast cancer early, increasing the chances of survival,” says Sonya Kella, MD, director of Women’s Imaging with Adventist HealthCare.  Most current guidelines recommend that women over age 40 have an annual mammogram. If you are at higher risk for developing breast cancer due to family history, genetics or other factors, you should speak with your physician about the right time to begin screening.

New Technology in Screening

“Recent updates to mammogram technology, such as 3D mammograms offer women a better option to detecting breast cancer,” explains Dr. Kella. 3D mammograms allow physicians to examine breast tissue one layer at a time, allowing for better visibility and detection of small abnormalities. 3D mammography also helps with better detection in women with dense breasts.

Many experts still suggest breast self-exams and clinical breast exams for women, although these screenings are not as reliable as mammograms in spotting breast cancer in its early stages. “While breast self-exams are no longer recommended as a reliable cancer screening method, it is a great way for younger women to become familiar with how their breasts should feel so they can spot abnormalities,” said Dr. Sen Gupta. “If there are any changes, such as new lumps or skin or nipple abnormalities, they should make an appointment to see their medical provider for evaluation.”

Sources: American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Foundation, Beast Cancer Organization, Breast Cancer Now, National Institute of Health