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ABCs of Breast Health

To celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I'd like to outline the simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of breast cancer. I am sure that you have heard a ton of information this month about breast health, but here is a short summary of what each and every woman should know.

Every woman should understand her risk, adopt healthy lifestyle changes, and perform the ABCs of early detection. Use this month to educate not only yourself but also your daughters, mothers, and sisters about the importance of breast health.

Understanding Your Risk: One in eight women will develop breast cancer over her lifetime.

The most significant risk factors for developing breast cancer are being a woman and getting older.

Here is how the risk looks broken down by age:

  • Women in their 30s: 1 in 233
  • Women in their 40s: 1 in 69
  • Women in their 50s: 1 in 38
  • Women in their 60s: 1 in 27

I know that as women we try to control everything we can, but unfortunately, here are some risk factors that are out of our control:

  • Genetics
  • Older age of giving birth or never having children
  • Late menopause
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Treatment with radiation to the chest
  • Earlier abnormal breast biopsy
  • Race

Healthy Lifestyle Changes
The best thing you can do to minimize your risk is to look at your current lifestyle and see how you can tweak it to fit these guidelines -- the best defense is an early offense.

  • Maintain a healthy diet -- low fat/increased folic acid
  • Alcohol consumption -- less than one drink per day
  • Exercise regularly -- 30 minutes at least 5 days per week
  • Maintain a healthy weight -- body mass index less than 25
  • Know your family (and your own) health history

ABCs of Early Detection

Early detection is still the best defense against breast cancer -- make these practices part of your routine.

  • Annual Mammograms
    - Start at age 40 unless you have a family history of a first-degree relative
    - Mammograms can detect about 85% of all breast cancers
  • Breast Awareness
    - Report any changes noted to your healthcare provider right away
    - Normal no dularity vs. unusual changes (keep a record of your normal pattern for your breasts)
  • Clinical Breast Exams
    - Every 3 years while in your 20s-30s
    - Every year over 40 years of age
  • Self-Breast Exams
    - Perform monthly and develop a routine
    - Perform lying down and standing in front of a mirror
    - Report any changes to your healthcare provider right away

Contacts & Support

If you have questions about breast health or are interested in programs offered by The Chester County Hospital, check out these local resources.

  • Free Screening Program
    The Chester County Hospital offers a free screening program twice a year to women over 40 who do not have health insurance. The screening includes a mammogram and a clinical breast exam.

    Radiology and Women's Imaging Center
    Fern Hill Medical Campus
    915 Old Fern Hill Road, Building D; Suite 400
    West Chester, PA 19380
    Call 610-431-5130 to register.
  • Cancer Risk Evaluation Program
    This program offered by The Chester County Hospital is specifically designed for women who want information about their personal risk for breast (and ovarian) cancer.

    The Women's Specialty Center
    Fern Hill Medical Campus
    915 Old Fern Hill Road, Building D; Suite 503
    West Chester, PA 19380
    Call 610-423-4556 for more information.

Last Updated: 10/30/2012