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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

Preventing Breast Cancer in Women: Annual Screenings and Breastfeeding Can Reduce Risk

The best way to fight cancer is by catching it early, when many common cancers are treatable. The risk for breast cancer goes up as you get older. For instance, women younger than 50 years old are at lower risk for breast cancer, while women ages 50 to 70 are more likely to benefit from having mammograms.

The physicians at Kaiser Permanente would like to remind you that three out four women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any family history of the disease and are not considered high risk. Women at average risk for breast cancer should begin having mammograms every two years at age 50. Those with a higher risk for cancer may start as young as age 30.

“A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to screen for breast cancer,” said Seong-Cheon Paul, Kim, MD a radiology specialist with the Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center. “Utilizing a mammogram can help find tumors within the breast that are too small for you to feel during a routine exam.” There are several types of mammograms.

They include:
• Standard mammogram. It puts images of the breast on film.
• Digital mammogram. It puts images of the breast into an electronic file. This allows your doctor to see different views of the breast without taking more images.
• Digital breast tomosynthesis is sometimes called 3D mammogram. It uses x-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. This test may be used alone or with a digital mammogram.

“When diagnosed early, a woman may be able to have smaller procedures like a lumpectomy,” added Malaika Amneus, MD, a gynecology specialist with Kaiser Permanente’s Panorama City Medical Center. “This surgery only removes the tumor and includes radiation to ensure it does not return. The benefit of this procedure is we can often save her from having her breast removed.”

Most people know there are benefits to breastfeeding, such as providing the unborn infant with vital nutrients as well as a reduce the risk of breast cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life with continued breastfeeding after the introduction of solid foods for one year longer.

“Studies show that women who breastfeed longer can increase their protection level against breast cancer,” continued Dr. Amneus. “In fact, women with a family history of breast cancer who breastfeed for at least six months can significantly reduce their risk of developing the disease compared to women who do not breastfeed or do for a shorter period of time.”

Additionally, the AAP states mothers who continue to breastfeed up to two years receive benefits associated with protections against diabetes, high blood pressure, and ovarian cancer.

“I can’t express just how important it is to get an annual breast screening,” concluded Dr. Kim. “Not only can it detect cancer early when treatable, it allows your doctor to identify if you are at high risk, helping you to be proactive in a healthier future for you and your family.”

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. It is recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of members and the communities served. Kaiser Permanente currently serves 12.7 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health.

For more information about women’s health and cancer care, visit the Kaiser Permanente website at kp.org/cancercare.

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