Breast Cancer: Prevention


Many risk factors, such as your genes and family history, cannot be controlled. However, a healthy diet and a few lifestyle changes may reduce your overall chance of developing cancer.

Breast cancer is more easily treated and often curable if it is found early. Early detection involves:

  • Breast self-exams (BSE)
  • Clinical breast exams by a medical professional
  • Screening mammography

Most experts recommend that women age 20 and older examine their breasts once a month during the week following the menstrual period.

Women between the ages 20 and 39:

  • Should have a doctor examine their breasts at least once every three years.

Women 40 and older:

  • Should have a mammogram every one to two years, depending on their risk factors. Women should call their doctor immediately if they notice in change in their breasts whether or not they do routine breast self-exams.
  • Should also have a complete breast exam by a health care provider every year.

Mammography is the most effective way of detecting breast cancer early. Certain women at high risk for breast cancer may have a breast MRI along with their yearly mammogram. Ask your doctor if your need an MRI.

Screening for breast cancer is a topic filled with controversy. A woman needs to have an informed and balanced discussion with her doctor, along with doing additional reading and researching on her own to determine if mammography is right for her.

Tamoxifen is approved for breast cancer prevention in women aged 35 and older who are at high risk.

Women at very high risk for breast cancer may consider preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy, which is the surgical removal of the breasts. Possible candidates for this procedure may include those who have already had one breast removed due to cancer, women with a strong family history of breast cancer and persons with genes or genetic mutations that raise their risk of breast cancer.