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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Risk Factors

There are several factors that increase the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. These factors include, but are not listed to: older age, family history of breast cancer, older age at the birth of first child, younger age at first menstrual cycle, higher consumption of alcohol, smoking, use of hormonal birth control, radiation treatment, and older age at menopause.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk with your primary healthcare provider about early or extra screening options available to you. All women at average risk should begin having a clinical breast exam, a simple physical exam that checks for lumps or other abnormalities in the breasts, every three years beginning at age 20. At age 40, all women should have an annual mammogram, a screening test that uses x-ray technology. If something abnormal is found during a mammogram, a breast ultrasound and possibly a breast MRI will be done. Remember that most cases of breast cancer are found during routine exams, as very few, if any, physical symptoms present during the early stages of breast cancer.

Georgia ranks 18th nationwide with 71% of women 45 years and older being up-to-date with their mammograms, compared to 68% of women in the US as a whole. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosis overall in the state, with approximately 9 thousand diagnoses each year.

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