4 News Now Q&A: How can you reduce your risk of getting breast cancer?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Q: How can you reduce your risk of getting breast cancer?

One in eight women who reach the age of 80 will have had breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the second most common cancer in women, and the second deadliest as well. 

A: New research from the National Institutes of Health show cancer diagnoses in the United States dropped dramatically during the pandemic. But that does not mean that there are fewer cases of cancer.

Instead, doctors say we may be missing cases.

Many people are afraid of catching COVID in healthcare environments and are not getting screened, diagnosed and treated for other diseases.

Dr. Stephanie Moline is a breast cancer surgeon at Cancer Care Northwest. She said the trend has health care providers concerned.

“Breast cancer accessibility and other things are being neglected of necessity when times are tough and you have to make decisions,” Dr. Moline said. “So trying to make sure we make those things a priority to get our health checked while we still try to evade a really nasty virus.”

Dr. Moline and other health professionals recommend women start being screened for breast cancer by 40 and continue to do so every one to two years.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, doctors say you should consider being screened at an earlier age and more often.

Dr. Moline said neglecting routine cancer screenings does not only increase your risk of death but can also put pressure on an already strained healthcare system.

“We’ve got breast cancer patients waiting over a month to get scheduled,” Dr. Moline said. “There are some people who have breast cancer who haven’t been scheduled yet because we don’t have the capacity in our hospitals. Anything we can do to make this pandemic move along and keep people safe, working at home with their loved ones and not in the hospital sick with it sounds like a really good idea to me.”

Like many health issues, Dr. Moline urged women to control the controllable.

Risk factors like family history and age are things we cannot change. But Dr. Moline said a shift in lifestyle, exercise patterns and diet are factors that can reduce risk.

Dr. Moline also recommended keeping an eye out for cardinal signs of cancer, like unexplained weight loss or newfound lumps and bumps.

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