It is quite apparent that we have no control over most of the risk factors, apart from being aware of them. However, there are certain risk factors that you can improve on. What you can do is adopt a healthier lifestyle and go for regular breast screening tests, especially if you are above 40 years of age. You can even do a genetic test if you suspect you are at risk of developing a faulty BRCA gene. Your healthcare professional can assist in deciding which tests are relevant for you.

  •  Genetic testing
Genetic testing for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes is recommended particularly if you have a strong family history of breast cancer. There are many mutations of these genes, but the BRCA genetic test only detects the common mutations that are known to cause breast or ovarian cancer.

If you test positive for the genetic test, it does not mean that you will develop breast cancer. It just means that your risk of developing it is higher compared to people who do not have the faulty gene. A genetic counsellor or certified healthcare professional should explain the results to you and assess your risks and available options. This should also be in conjunction with your personal medical history and family history, as it varies with individuals. Further testing may be required or done on your other family members.

If you test negative, it also does not mean that you will not eventually get breast cancer. It simply means that you are not at risk of developing breast cancer due to this genetic mutation. Remember that most cases, up to 90-95%, of breast cancers happens with no obvious risk factors and there is no sure way of guaranteeing someone will not have breast cancer at all, just because they do not possess any risk factors.

  • Mammography:
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. It is used to detect early changes in the breast that may be diagnostic of cancer or otherwise. This is done by looking at the breast density. Women above the age of 40 years old are recommended to go for a screening annually. It is not useful in detecting breast changes in young women, because their breast density is usually higher.

This is the most standard screening test for breast cancer because it can detect very early signs of breast changes up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Therefore, breast cancer is one of the most treatable, if not curable, cancers of the body.

  • Breast self-examination (BSE):
Breast self-examination can be done by you or your healthcare professional. All you need is just a mirror that is long enough to view your chest. It is easy to perform it, and not time-consuming at all. Although it might seem strange or inconvenient at first, BSE is a skill you can use throughout your life to help ensure good breast health. It is generally recommended by healthcare practitioners, and also helps to check your breasts in between check-ups. This method of screening is usually for women in their 20s, since mammography screening may not be so accurate due to their young age. There are two parts to a BSE which includes how your breasts look and how they feel.

Your healthcare professional can teach you how to perform BSE properly. Report immediately any abnormalities to your doctor.

Below is a video that could be used as a guideline on how to perform it BSE. Please view it for further insight on BSE.  

Besides going for annual screening tests, you can reduce your risks of developing breast cancer by making lifestyle amendments.

  • Diet: Women in countries with lower breast cancer rates consume more plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. According to one study, such foods may protect against breast cancer. It is therefore helpful to watch your diet and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to reduce your risk of developing other health problems related to diet or obesity.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Being obese generally predisposes people to a myriad of health problems, including breast cancer. Thus, the best bet is to reduce weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle. This also includes exercising.
  •  Alcohol consumption and smoking: Although these two have not exactly been proven to cause breast cancer specifically, it does help to watch your drinking or smoking habits to prevent other types of diseases or cancers.
  • Breast-feed. Breast-feeding has shown to play a role in reducing your risk of breast cancer. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.

Finally, the best way to lower your risk is to protect yourself with information. Be aware of the changes in your breast and body and seek a healthcare professional’s help, should you detect any abnormalities. Be proactive and do not hesitate to seek treatment or counselling.

Please see your healthcare professional for more information and assistance in assessing your risks for breast cancer and the various options they might offer. 

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Disclaimer: This blog is for the project of a humanities course in medicine and therefore it is for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site does not serve to replace the advice of your physician or healthcare provider and it is not a substitute for medical or professional care.

Note: All information provided in this site is derived from other reliable and credible websites as referenced.