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Risks for breast cancer and ways to help prevent it.

A number of things can increase your chance of getting breast cancer. These are called risk factors. Risk factors can be something you inherit, parts of your lifestyle or things in the environment. You can’t change every risk factor for breast cancer like getting older or having family members with breast cancer. And women can’t control starting periods or going through menopause. But, you can take certain steps to lower your chances. The most important one is to stay as healthy as possible.

  • Get to a healthy weight and stay there
  • Get enough sleep
  • Be active
  • Don’t drink alcohol. If you do drink, ask your doctor what a safe amount might be for you
  • Breastfeed your children if you can

Some women may need medication to lower their risk of getting cancer. And for some people, genetic counseling and testing may help figure out if there are specific risk factors

Screening for breast cancer

Screening for breast cancer doesn’t mean you won’t get cancer. But it can help find cancer early when it is easier to treat. Screening for breast cancer includes:

  • Self-breast exam. You know best what your breasts feel and look like. It is important to check them regularly. Tell your doctor if you feel or see anything different. For example, if you feel pain or any new lumps, or if your nipple or skin start to look different than normal.
  • Clinical breast exam. A doctor or nurse does a breast exam.
  • Mammogram. Mammograms are like x-rays. They look inside your breast to see if there are any changes. There are different kinds of mammograms. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms, how often you should get them and what kind to have.

Talk to your health care team about your possible risks for breast cancer and ways to help prevent it. 

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