Serena Williams kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness month by performing topless to bring awareness to the importance of breast self-examination. Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles tennis titles, posted a video of herself singing “I Touch Myself.”
“Early detection is key,” she wrote on Instagram.” It saves so many lives. I just hope this helps remind people of that.” Statistics show that one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and about 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from the disease, according to Breastcancer.org.
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Besides self-exams, a recent study on breast cancer screening suggests that breast cancer screening twice annually with an MRI is the best early detection route for young women with a high risk of developing this dreaded disease. For this group of women, the study authors found that MRI’s trump mammograms.
The study, published in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research, said that women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations and those who had been diagnosed with breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) before the age of 35 were identified as being at increased risk. Having a mother or sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50 also places women in a high-risk category for developing the disease.
The study authors followed 295 of these high-risk women and, thanks to semiannual MRIs, were able to detect 17 breast cancers at an early stage before reaching the lymph nodes. All of the women who had cancer were treated and are alive today with no evidence of the disease.
“This study demonstrates for the first time that aggressive breast cancers can be caught early without excessive recalls or biopsies,” Said Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade, M.D. associate dean for global health at the University of Chicago Medical Center and senior author of the study.
“Annual mammograms can be eliminated for those at high risk,” says Olopade, who says that the best way to detect breast cancer in this group is an MRI every six months.
Another study author, Dr. Gregory Karczmar, Ph.D. adds: “Mammograms are not the best option for about 40% of women. This includes those with dense breasts as well as those with specific genetic risks. MRI is much more sensitive than mammography. It can find invasive breast cancers sooner than mammograms, and it can rule out abnormalities that appear suspicious on a mammogram.”
Unfortunately, MRI’s are too expensive for routine screening so the study authors suggest talking to your doctor if you are a high-risk candidate.
According to Breastcancer.org, your can help prevent the disease by following these lifestyle changes:
- Diet. Diet is thought to be responsible for 30% to 40% of all cancers. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, limit fat intake, avoid red meat and eat more fiber.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger pre-menopausal women. Smoking can also interfere with cancer treatment.
- Check your vitamin D levels. A new study indicates that this important vitamin may not only reduce breast cancer risk, but reduce breast cancer mortality.
- Aim for a normal weight. Overweight and obese women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Avoid excess alcohol. Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages increases a women’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.