If you are a woman over the age of 40, then you likely know that your risk of developing breast cancer rises significantly as you get older. Specifically, 1 in 68 40 year old women develop the cancer and 1 in 42 50 year old women will likely have some form of breast cancer. Your risks go up even more as you reach the age of 60 and 70. This means that it is necessary to do everything in your power to reduce your personal breast cancer risks as much as possible as your age. While a good diet and exercise regimen are always a great idea to keep cancer at bay, you should also consider doing the following things.
Limit Hormone Replacement Therapy
Many women will struggle with a barrage of physical and emotional changes when they go through menopause. Hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, dry skin, and sleeplessness are a few of the common symptoms. These symptoms arise because the body stops releasing eggs from the ovaries and the body stops getting the uterus ready for pregnancy. This also means that the body stops producing as much estrogen and progesterone. Not only will the typical menopause symptoms occur, but osteoporosis may set in since estrogen helps the body absorb calcium.
Your general physician may suggest the use of hormone replacement therapy to curb symptoms as you start to go through menopause. This will reduce symptoms and decrease your risk of forming brittle bones. However, hormone therapy that combines both estrogen and progesterone will increase your risks of developing breast cancer, and the longer the therapy is administered, the greater your cancer risks will be. To reduce your risks, consider hormone replacement therapy for a short period of time only. Treatments for a year or less are ideal. Also, therapy that utilizes estrogen alone is a better option than combined estrogen and progesterone therapy.
Keep in mind that breast cancer risks increase whether you are provided with oral pills, creams, or other topical products. Fortunately, your risk of developing the cancer will return to a normal level three years after you stop taking the hormones.
Receive Extra Imaging
You likely will be advised by your OBGYN to start scheduling mammograms every one or two years once you turn 45. This is necessary to identify abnormal lumps within the breasts that may be cancerous tumors. Typically, a mammogram that utilizes x-ray technology will be used. In some case, your physician may indicate that three-dimensional imaging should be performed. This imaging will produce a more complete image of the breast so that smaller abnormalities can be located. This can help to catch tumors extremely early.
However, if you have been informed that you have dense breast tissue, then even a three-dimensional image may not provide your OBGYN with enough information to determine whether or not results indicate normal dense tissues or tumor formations. When this is the case, your test results will be inconclusive and other types of imaging tests will need to be performed.
Typically, your doctor will schedule either an MRI or a sonogram to look at your breast tissue. However, some individuals decide to skip these imaging tests due to the extra costs and the additional nuisance of scheduling more appointments. Also, MRI imaging can increase the amount of radiation you receive. However, it is essential that you go through the imaging, especially since dense breasts are 6 times more likely to develop cancer. Work with your doctor to determine whether sonogram or MRI imaging is right for you and also set up a screening regimen that involves self examination, three-dimensional imaging, and advanced imaging. This way, you know what to expect when your examinations are due.
If the worst should happen, reach out to an oncologist immediately for the best results.