What You Can Do Now to Prevent Breast Cancer

by Carolyn D. Runowicz, M.D., and Sheldon H. Cherry, M.D., with Dianne Partie Lange

  1. At your next annual gynecologic exam, ask your doctor to calculate your breast cancer risk. Several Web sites now offer risk assessment calculators; one is the official web site of the NSABP Breast Cancer Prevention Trial.

  2. If you are at average risk, do a breast self-exam every month, ideally starting at age 20. Follow up with a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years between ages 20 and 39, then every year starting at age 40. Also get a mammogram every year starting at age 40.

  3. If you are at high risk, talk with your doctor about which screening tests you need and at what intervals.

  4. If you are at high risk, ask your doctor whether you'd be a candidate for tamoxifen therapy. Or you may want to consider enrolling in a clinical trial of another chemopreventive drug.

  5. Make every effort to maintain a healthy weight. As you get older, this may mean eating fewer calories and getting more exercise.

  6. Eat at least five servings fruits and vegetables a day, and do your best to get nine.

  7. Find ways to become more physically active in every aspect of your life -- on the job, at home, and in your leisure time.

  8. If you smoke, stop.

  9. If your mother, sister, or daughter has breast cancer, seek genetic counseling before deciding whether to undergo genetic testing.

  10. If genetic testing reveals that you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, talk with your doctor about your options for managing your breast cancer risk. You could take tamoxifen or enroll in a clinical trial. Another possibility is preventive surgery (prophylactic mastectomy and/or oophorectomy).

More information is available at KnowYourGenes.

Reprinted from: The Answer to Cancer: Stop It Before It Starts - Arrest It In Its Earliest Stages - Keep It From Coming Back by Carolyn D. Runowicz, M.D., and Sheldon H. Cherry, M.D., with Dianne Partie Lange

Carolyn D. Runowicz, M.D., currently serves as director of the University of Connecticut Cancer Center in Farmington. She is second vice president of the American Cancer Society and a past president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists; the first woman to hold the post. Her husband, Sheldon H. Cherry, M.D., is clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Cherry and Dr. Runowicz reside near Hartford, Connecticut. Their coauthor, Dianne Partie Lange, is the former editor-in-chief of Natural Health magazine and a former syndicated health news columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She resides in Carnelian Bay, California.

Copyright © Carolyn D. Runowicz, M.D., and Sheldon H. Cherry, M.D. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC by Rodale, Inc.