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Mammograms Aid Early Detection of Breast Cancer //

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, causing an estimated 40,000 deaths each year.  On average 12% of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and 2 % will die from the disease.  The risk of breast cancer increases with age, especially after age 50.  Having a mother or sister with breast cancer increases risk.  Taking estrogen and drinking alcohol also increase the risk of breast cancer.  Certain BRCA gene mutations can increase the risk of breast cancer to almost 50% by age 70. 


The BRCA gene is a genetic mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer.  There are many of these mutations, but BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common.  The testing can be accomplished through providers at Seward Community Health Center.  Genetic counseling for possible BRCA gene screening is recommended for women who have any of the following family history:


  • Breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50 years old

  • Bilateral breast cancer

  • Breast and ovarian cancer in one family member

  • Breast cancer in a male family member

  • Multiple cases of breast cancer in the family

  • Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity

  • Family member with a BRCA gene


Mammography is the best method of breast cancer screening in women.  Mammograms are a low dose x-ray evaluation of the breast and can improve the outcome of breast cancer by early detection and treatment.  The radiation dose associated with mammography is very small and probably not significant.  The decision about when to start getting mammograms and the frequency of obtaining mammograms is dependent on your relative risk of breast cancer.  It would be best to discuss this with your provider.  In women with a normal risk of breast cancer, obtaining mammograms every other year from the ages of 50 to 75 is recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.  This recommendation balances the ability to detect breast cancer with the risk of identifying areas that require additional evaluation or biopsy and are not found to be cancer.  For women with a mother or sister with breast cancer, screening should start at age 40 and may need to be repeated every year.  By age 70 the benefits of screening begin to decrease and screening is generally not recommended after age 74 for most women.  These are complex and personally sensitive decisions.  Women should be given the information and freedom to make their own choice about breast cancer screening.


The risk of breast cancer can be reduced by half by adopting a healthy life style.  Keeping your weight under control after menopause (Body mass index less than 30 kg/m2) reduces your risk of breast cancer by 40%.  Regular exercise can reduce your risk by 30%.  Aspirin taken once a week or more can reduce risk by 20%.  Breast feeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer by 30%.


Call Seward Community Health Center at 224-2273 for an evaluation of your risk of breast cancer and to establish a plan for prevention.

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