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Top 10 Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Tips

By , Caring.com senior editor
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3GenerationsofWomen

Are you worried about the possibility of breast cancer in your future, or in the future of someone you love? Here are the top ten things you can do to ensure a breast cancer-free future for yourself and your loved ones.

Detection

1. Get regular mammograms. It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many women don't. Last week an Australian study found that women who get regular mammograms had a 4 percent risk of dying of breast cancer; women who weren't screened had a 56 percent mortality rate. Ready to make that appointment?

2. Find out whether you or women close to you have dense breasts. What does this mean? It means the breast cells grow and multiply more rapidly, raising your risk. Plus dense breasts make it harder for a mammogram to "see" through the tissue and detect a tumor. While dense breast tissue is more common in younger women who haven't yet had children, it's also hereditary and can affect any woman. I have a dear 43-year-old friend whose breast tumor failed to show up on three years' worth of mammograms before her doctor finally ordered an MRI. How to find out? Schedule a breast exam and ask your doctor. Also talk to the radiologist who's administering your mammogram.

3. Ask your doctor to recommend other tests. Surprise: Mammograms are only 16 to 40 percent accurate, studies show. Meanwhile, ultrasounds and MRIs can detect breast tumors that may not show up on mammograms. MRIs, the gold standard, are 70 to 100 percent accurate. This fall Dartmouth University published a study showing that MRIs found tumors in 20 percent of patients who'd already "passed" a mammogram or ultrasound. If you have any reason for concern, ask your doctor to refer you for an ultrasound, MRI, or both.