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Controlling Your Risk for Breast Cancer

Prevention

When referring to a person’s red hair or toothy grin, people often say “It runs in the family.” But physical traits like these aren’t the only things that are passed down through the generations. Diseases, such as breast cancer, may also run in the family.

Familial versus genetic risk

You can’t control who you’re related to, but you can take steps to better manage your risk for breast cancer. It’s important to really know and understand your family history. If several women in your family have battled breast cancer, it might be worth coming in for a screening.

It’s important to not confuse familial risk with genetic risk, which is when you have a specific gene that may cause breast cancer. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two types of genes that have been linked with breast cancer. However, genetics accounts for only a small percentage of breast cancer cases—approximately five percent.

Additional breast cancer risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Beginning menstruation at an early age
  • Entering menopause at an older age
  • Radiation exposure
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

How can I lower my risk?

To help lower your general risk for breast cancer, consider the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Strive to keep your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25. You can calculate your current score here.
  • Get regular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends adults exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. Include a good mix of vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • Quit smoking. To kick your habit once and for all, consider enrolling in a smoking cessation class.

Another important step is getting regular screenings. Shawnee Mission Health offers a full range of screening, diagnostic imaging and minimally invasive breast biopsies to help identify and treat breast cancer during its earliest, most treatable stages. As always, use the MyHealthKC Find a Doctor tool to match with a specialist that’s right for you.