How can I prevent breast cancer?
The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood,
although it is clear that a woman’s lifetime exposure
to estrogen and her age at the time of her first
childbirth play an important role. Because no one
knows exactly what causes breast cancer, there are
no sure ways to prevent it. There are steps that every
woman can take that may make developing breast
cancer less likely. These include eating healthy,
exercising regularly and limiting the amount ofalcohol you drink. Leading a healthy lifestyle will
I have a family history of breast cancer. Does that
not eliminate your chance of getting breast cancer,
mean I’ll develop breast cancer, too?
but it may help reduce your risk. For women at
Not necessarily. Just because other family members
higher risk, the antiestrogen drug tamoxifen can also
have had breast cancer doesn’t mean that their disease
help to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
was inherited. Only about 5 to 10 percent of all breastcancers occur because of inherited mutations.2
Who gets breast cancer?
Anyone can get breast cancer. For example, did you
If I am diagnosed with breast cancer, what are my
chances of surviving?
the older a woman is, the more likely she is to get
In general, pretty good. The 5-year survival rate for
all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 87
white women are more likely to get breast cancer
percent.2 This means that 87 out of every 100 women
than women of any other racial or ethnic group?
with breast cancer will survive without a recurrence
They also have a better chance of survival, prima-
for at least five years. Most will live a full life and
rily because their cancer is usually detected earlier.
never have a recurrence. Your chances of surviving
African American women are more likely to die
are better if the cancer is detected early, before it
from breast cancer than white women.
spreads to other parts of your body. In fact, when
men can get breast cancer too, although it is rare.
breast cancer is confined to the breast, the 5-year
Less than one of every 100 cases of breast cancer in
survival rate is over 95 percent.2 That is why it is so
important to take steps to detect breast cancer in its
in 2005, it is estimated that men will account for
1 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2005.
How do I know if I am at risk for breast cancer?
American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2003-2004.
All women are at risk for breast cancer. Known risk fac-tors like having a family history of breast cancer, starting
For more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Susan G. KomenBreast Cancer Foundation’s Toll-Free Helpline at 1.800 I’M AWARE® (1.800.462.9273)or visit the Web site at www.komen.org.
The best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest
Most women have more than one known risk factor
stages is to routinely check your breasts for signs
for developing breast cancer, yet will never get the
and symptoms of the disease. There are three
disease. Some risk factors are things that you do not
have any control over, while others can be changed bymaking changes in your lifestyle (see list below).
are X-ray pictures of the breast.
What is the most important risk factor? Simply being
They can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages,
a woman. But remember, there is no one
even before a lump can be felt. All women 40
breast cancer. If you are concerned about your breast
and older should have a mammogram every year.
cancer risk, discuss your breast health needs with
If you are younger than 40 with either a family
history of breast cancer or other concerns aboutpersonal risk, talk with your health care provider
Known and probable risk factors:
about risk assessment, when to start getting
mammograms and how often to have them.
getting olderhaving a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
Clinical breast exam
is performed by a health care
having a family history of breast cancer or
provider who carefully checks your breasts and
underarm areas for any lumps or changes that
having a previous biopsy showing hyperplasia or
may be present. Many women have a clinical breast
exam performed when they get their Pap test.
Women should have a clinical breast exam at least
every 3 years between the ages of 20 and 39 and
having your first child after age 30having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast
Breast self-exam (BSE)
involves two main steps,
looking at and feeling your breasts for any change
drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day
from normal. If you notice any change in the
being overweight after menopause or gaining
normal look or feel of your breasts, see your
health care provider. All women should perform
currently or recently using combined estrogen and
monthly BSE by age 20. BSE should be done once
progestin hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
a month, a few days after the last day of your period. If you no longer have periods, do BSE on the same day each month. At your nextappointment, ask your health care provider to showyou the steps for BSE. (For step-by-step BSE
instructions, go to www.komen.org/bse or call
1.800 I’M AWARE® (1.800.462.9273) to request a
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is not a health care provider and does not give medical advice. The information providedin this material is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or to replace the services of a medical professional.
Developed in collaboration with the Health Communication Research Laboratory at Saint Louis University.
2005 The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Item No. 806-316 4/05
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