Every October, there’s one health issue everybody is focused on: breast cancer. The success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month lies in the fact that it reminds men and women to visit a doctor for cancer screenings – just to be safe.
Breast cancer screenings lower the death rate of the devastating disease by up to 30 percent. Research unequivocally indicates that catching lumps before they grow or spread is the most effective strategy for treatment.
Early detection is key when treating breast cancer, with the survival rate increasing exponentially the earlier the cancer is found. Women and men should perform comprehensive self-examinations at least once a month, and undergo mammograms at least once a year. However, physicians might require more frequent screenings if they deem a patient at a heightened risk of breast cancer because of family history, overall health, lifestyle or some other factor.
But recent findings show that “early detection” also holds a different definition. Mammograms used to be reserved for women between the ages of 50 and 74, since that is the most vulnerable age group. But younger patients with breast cancer actually experience the disease with heightened aggression, even though their risk is technically lower.
Men and women alike need to head in for screenings as early as 40 if they hope to catch what might be a particularly virulent case before it metastasizes. For someone with a family history of breast cancer, starting screenings as a 20-something is not too soon.
Lifestyle changes cannot cure breast cancer before it develops. What they can do, though, is lower the chances of development, or chip away at the disease’s aggressiveness. Adapting a healthy diet and exercise regimen is a major decision toward cancer prevention. Patients should work directly with healthcare professionals to find lifestyle solutions that work for their bodies, their schedules and their specific medical needs.
In addition, they must remain mindful of family history. Diagnoses are much easier to make when doctors are made aware of any genetic components that could dictate what kind of treatment to pursue. Any time new information about family history comes to light, healthcare providers need to know, as this information might prove a complete game-changer.
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