Judith Munoz, M.D
., a woman’s health specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, dispels some common, but dangerous, myths about breast cancer:
Your father and mother’s family history of breast cancer play an equally important role in contributing to your risk for breast cancer. Be sure to tell your doctor about occurrences of breast cancer in women from both sides of your family.
Every woman has at least some risk for breast cancer, and nearly 80 percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Regular breast self-exams and mammograms are crucial for any woman.
Breast self-exams are a useful method for early detection, but it is not a substitute for mammography and regular breast exams by a medical professional. These methods should be used together to provide the best chance of finding breast cancer in its early stages. No one precaution is a silver bullet.
On the contrary, 80 percent of women who are diagnosed early will live at least five years, and many will live much, much longer. New treatments are becoming available every day, and your doctor can guide you through the various treatment options that might be right for you.
There's a lot you can do to reduce your risk for breast cancer. Starting in your twenties, examine your breasts every month, looking for lumps, changes in skin texture, unusual tenderness or discharge. Women 20-39 should have a clinical breast exam performed by a doctor at least every three years, and women age 40 and older should have a mammogram and clinic breast exam every year. Women at increased risk due to family history or past breast cancer should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of more frequent screening.