October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while breast cancer is still the most common cancer among women, technology is making the screening process easier than ever.
New this year, patients have the opportunity to self-schedule their mammogram appointments through Patient Online Services, Mayo Clinic’s patient portal. After the patient’s care team sends an email with a go-ahead to schedule the screening, the patient can log in and choose the date, time and location that works best.
In addition, patients who visit Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea have greater access to enhanced technology for breast cancer screenings. Breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography machines) enables physicians to see cancers earlier, especially in women with denser breast tissue. The technology also has shown to reduce the recall rate, meaning patients are less likely to be called back for a second screening.
When used for breast cancer screening, 3D mammogram machines create 3D and 2D mammogram images. Studies show that combining 3D mammograms with standard mammograms reduces the need for additional imaging and slightly increases the number of cancers detected during screening.
Breast cancer prevention is also important. Some risk factors, such as family history, can’t be changed. However, these lifestyle changes can lower your risk:
- Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation — based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk — is to limit yourself to less than one drink per day, as even small amounts increase risk.
- Don’t smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
- Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
- Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
- Breastfeed. Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect.
- Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your health care provider about other options. You might be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies and medications. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you and continue to have your provider monitor the length of time you take hormones.
- Be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your provider. Also, ask when to begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history.
Visit mayoclinichealthsystem.org for more information.
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