Breast cancer is known to be linked to genetics, but your risk also increases as you age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. Hence, it would be best if you started exploring mammograms - an x-ray of the breast - after you turn 40 and go for regular screenings from 50 years old.
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The frequency is usually once a year from age 40 to 49 and once every two years after that. At home, you should also check your breasts regularly for any lumps and your nipples for any blood or discharge. If your doctor spots anything suspicious in your mammogram results, they may ask you to go for further tests. The follow-up tests could include a repeat mammogram, an ultrasound or a biopsy.
Aside from age, there are many other risk factors, some within your control, others not. Women who have a family history of breast cancer or a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also, women who start menstruating early (before 12 years old) and experience menopause later (after 55 years old) are exposed to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer as well.
In terms of what you can control, eating well and exercising frequently can significantly lower your risks of breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese, smoke, and/or drink excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to get breast cancer. If you fall into any of the above categories, now’s the time to reconsider your lifestyle and improve your health. Maintain a healthy weight, stay active and load up on more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods that are low in fats.