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Breast cancer: are you at risk

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women. Nearly one woman in 10 will contract the disease and more than 44,000 die each year. There is good news, however, about breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, medical science is beginning to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the disease. New methods of diagnosis can now detect breast cancer before it becomes life threatening.

While it is known that breast cancer results from the abnormal growth of cells in breast tissue, it is not known what causes this. Medical scientists have discovered that certain factors increase the risk for breast cancer, including:

  • You have a family history of breast cancer.
  • You are over the age of 50.
  • You had your first child after age 30 or have never had children.
  • You began menstruating before age 12.
  • You began menopause after age 55.
  • You eat a diet high in fat.

Early Detection is the Key
You can monitor your own health with a three-step program that can identify breast cancer in its early stages.

Step 1: Mammogram
A mammogram is a special X-ray that can reveal a small breast cancer up to two years before it can be felt.

Step 2: Examine your breasts
You should examine your breasts monthly for lumps. Breast lumps are common and more than 80 percent are not cancerous. However, you should see your doctor if a lump is discovered or if you find any other changes in your breasts.

Step 3: See your doctor regularly
If you are between 20 and 40 years old, your breasts should be examined by your doctor at least once every three years. The American Cancer Society advises that women should have a clinical breast exam once a year, beginning at age 40. The exam is usually performed at the same time as a gynecological exam or Pap smear and/or a mammogram.

If all women followed these simple steps it is estimated that one-third of all deaths from breast cancer could be avoided. Start by scheduling a mammogram today.

Baptist Health Louisville offers mammography services through its Women's Imaging Services, located in the hospital. For more information about mammography services, call the Baptist Health Information Center at (502) 897-8131.