There are strategies women can follow to help prevent breast cancer, such as not smoking. Women also can increase their resistance by eating healthful foods, exercising regularly and controlling stress.
Some risk factors, such as an inherited genetic makeup, cannot be controlled. However, the biggest risk women face is simply aging.
Even with risk-lowering strategies, a woman still may get breast cancer.
Health officials say early detection of breast cancer is key to saving lives. The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 and older have a mammogram every year. Though many agencies are funding research projects to improve breast cancer screening methods, at this time mammograms are still considered the best method to find breast cancer at an early stage.
“Women are so busy and often put their family’s needs before their own, but it is important that they talk to their doctor about their breast cancer risk and have regular mammograms starting at age 40,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
For women unable to afford the cost of a doctor’s visit or mammogram, the Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program, which is part of the Maine CDC, may be able to help. The program provides access to routine screening services for women age 40 and older who have little or no health insurance and who meet income guidelines.
Women age 35 to 39 experiencing symptoms related to a suspected breast or cervical cancer also may qualify.
Information is available by calling toll-free 800-350-5180.