SEATTLE – According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. As a result, women across the country are eager for guidance on breast cancer prevention and screening. Following recent debate over screening among the medical community, world-renowned breast cancer experts at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) recognized the need for simple answers for women confused about detection methods. SCCA’s doctors have answered the call and developed clear guidelines to simplify recommendations from the American Cancer Society on breast cancer prevention and screening. The Smart Choices for Breast Health infographic provides screening recommendations for each life stage and for those who believe they are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
“Early detection saves lives,” said Dr. Constance Lehman, medical director of Imaging at SCCA and professor and vice chair of the radiology department at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “Based on research spanning more than 50 years, we know that mammography screening is the best way to test for breast cancer. Starting at age 40, we recommend women be screened every year. And we are particularly concerned about the many women over 50 who have not had a mammogram in the last two years. These women are at risk for delayed breast cancer diagnosis and we want to support them however we can so they can be screened regularly.”
Following the guidelines from the American Cancer Society, SCCA recommends:
- Beginning in their 20s: Women should discuss the benefits and limitations of breast awareness with a doctor – women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any new breast changes to a health professional. Women in their 20s and 30s should also consider having a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every three years.
- For women age 40 through 69: SCCA suggests women have a mammogram every year and continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Starting at age 40, women should also have a CBE by a health professional every year.
- For women age 70 or older or women with less than a 10- to 15-year life expectancy: Women should continue to have yearly mammograms as long as there are no serious, chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or moderate to severe dementia. Women with serious health problems or short life expectancies should discuss whether to continue having mammograms with their doctors.
- For women who believe they are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer: SCCA recommends that these women talk to their doctor about screening tests and their potential benefits, limitations and harms. Women at higher risk of breast cancer may need to be screened earlier and more frequently than other women. The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool is a helpful interactive tool designed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) to estimate a woman's risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
In addition to screening routines, a few simple modifications to a woman’s lifestyle can reduce her chances of developing breast cancer. SCCA’s breast cancer experts suggest women follow these practical prevention focused tips including:
- Lead a healthy lifestyle: Research suggests that leading a healthy lifestyle reduces overall breast cancer risk. SCCA recommends embracing a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods, exercising moderately to maintain a body-mass index under 25 and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
- Breast-feed your babies for as long as possible: Women who breast-feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later.
- Avoid hormone replacement therapy: Menopausal hormone therapy increases the risk for breast cancer. If you must take hormones to manage menopausal symptoms, avoid those that contain progesterone and limit their use to less than three years. “Bioidentical hormones” and hormonal creams and gels are no safer than prescription hormones and should also be avoided.
For more information on SCCA’s breast cancer prevention and early detection techniques please visit: http://www.seattlecca.org/breast-screening.cfm.
About Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is a cancer treatment center that unites doctors from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children’s. Our goal, every day, is to turn cancer patients into cancer survivors. Our purpose is to lead the world in the prevention and treatment of cancer. SCCA has five clinical care sites: an outpatient clinic on the Hutchinson Center campus, a pediatric inpatient unit at Seattle Children’s, an adult inpatient unit at UW Medical Center, a medical oncology clinic at EvergreenHealth, and medical and radiation oncology clinics at UW Medicine / Northwest Hospital. Additionally, proton therapy services are provided at SCCA Proton Therapy, A Procure Center. For more information about SCCA, visit www.seattlecca.org.
Nyhus Communications for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance