Breast Cancer: Know Your Risks and Focus on Prevention and Early Detection

October 10, 2014

October 10, 2014 - ELKO, NV

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual reminder to encourage the women in your life to learn about breast cancer risks and commit to regular screenings for the disease. 

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. There are currently nearly three million women with a history of breast cancer in our nation today. More than 230,000 of these women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year. Breast cancer is the second-most deadly cancer among women, with nearly 40,000 dying from the disease in 2013. 

“Research has shown that early detection is vital to improving breast cancer survival rates,” said Starla Ricks, DNP, APN, FNP-BC of Northeastern Nevada Family Medicine. “Understanding your breast cancer risks, performing breast self-exams and getting regular screenings such as mammograms are all very important steps. Not all medical organizations agree on when and how often certain medical screenings for breast cancer should be conducted, so we encourage all women to talk to their doctors to determine the right time and frequency of screenings specific to their personal health and medical histories.” 

Determining Your Risk 

There are several factors that can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. These include: 
• Being over 50; 
• A family history of breast cancer; 
• Being overweight; 
• Lack of exercise; 
• An unhealthy diet; 
• Alcohol intake of more than two drinks per day; 
• Early onset of menstruation; 
• Late onset of menopause; and 
• Not having a pregnancy before the age of 35. 

Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors. He or she may be able to recommend lifestyle changes that can reduce your breast cancer risk and suggest additional screenings, such as genetic tests, that can improve your ability to understand your risks and help to detect breast cancer early. 

Performing Breast Self-Exams 

Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who find a lump in their breast, so establishing a regular breast self-exam routine is essential. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that women conduct breast self-exams once a month. 

• In the shower: Circle each breast with finger pads from the outside to center. You are checking for a lump, thickening, or hardened knot. 

• Lying down: Raise one arm overhead and check that side with the opposite hand. Move fingers in a small circular motion on breasts, using light, medium and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Switch sides. 

• In the mirror: Visually inspect your breasts. Raise your arms high and look for changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Continue checking while putting arms at your side and squeezing chest muscles. 

Scheduling a Mammogram 

Getting a high-quality screening mammogram on a regular basis is the most effective way to detect breast cancer early. Mammograms have been shown to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35 percent in women over the age of 50. Talk to your doctor about the recommended frequency for your mammogram, based on your personal breast health history and age. 

Mammograms are typically a brief exam involving minimal discomfort. During a mammogram, the breast is compressed between an X-ray tray and a plate or cushioned pad on the machine to create a detailed image. You may experience some brief discomfort during breast compression, which is necessary to control movement and provide ample surface area to view as much of the breast tissue as possible. Compression enables the machine to record the most detailed image of the breast tissue and provide a more accurate exam. The entire mammogram procedure usually takes about 20 minutes. 

Contact at Northeastern Nevada Family Medicine 777-2061or visit to learn more about local resources that can help you learn more about breast cancer risks and the screenings that may be right for you.