Healthy Living Blog – Breast Cancer Facts for Middle-Aged Women
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed every October to spread awareness about the disease. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women (skin cancers are the most common). Female breast cancer represents about 15% of all new cancer cases. A woman’s average risk of developing breast cancer in her life is about 13%. There is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, but early detection and treatment can give many women a good chance of surviving.
What is breast cancer?
It’s a type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer begins when some cells grow out of control. They can later spread to other parts of the body. Breast lumps signal unusual cell growth. Most of the time, these lumps are benign (not cancerous), meaning they won’t spread anywhere else.
Risk factors for breast cancer
These are factors women can’t change:
- Being a woman. Both women and men have breast tissue, but women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
- Being older. Women’s risk of breast cancer increases with age. Most women are diagnosed if they are 50 or older.
- Genetic changes.
- Reproductive history. Having the first period before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55 can increase women’s risk of breast cancer.
- Having dense breasts.
- Women who have had breast cancer before.
- Family history. If a woman’s immediate family (mother, sister, daughter) has had breast cancer.
- Having had radiation therapy to treat other cancers.
These are the factors women can change:
- Not being physically active.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause.
- Taking hormones. Women who have taken estrogen hormones during menopause for more than five years have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never being pregnant can increase breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol and/or smoking.
Women can possibly lower their risk of breast cancer by living a more healthy lifestyle such as eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, and not drinking alcohol or smoking. Staying healthy can also help women’s chances of surviving from cancer too!
Breast cancer screening
To increase women’s survival of breast cancer, early detection and treatment are very important. Breast cancer screening can detect breast cancer tumors early. Women who are 50 and older with an average risk of breast cancer should get a mammogram every two years. Women who are ages 40-49 should talk to a doctor about screening options. Breast cancer screening tests include:
- Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Clinical breast exam: This is done by a doctor or nurse.
- Breast self-exam
Have questions or curious to learn more about your health? Please reach out to our Health Center and make an appointment to speak with a doctor. AACI provides services in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and many other languages. Call (408) 975-2763 to schedule your appointment today!