Ask the Docs: Your Questions Answered About Breast Cancer.

By Guest Editor on Oct 27, 2017

We talked to Dr. David L. Howard, with WellHealth, a DaVita Medical Group, to learn more about a how
to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

CareConnection: What are the signs/symptoms of breast cancer?

Dr. Howard: There are multiple signs or symptoms of breast cancer to look for. Some of these include swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin and nipple discharge (other than breast milk). If you experience any of these symptoms make an appointment 

with your doctor.

CareConnection: Can men get breast cancer, and should men get routine check-ups as well?

Dr. Howard: Yes, breast cancer is not exclusive to women; however, it is not necessary for men to get routine breast exams unless there is a family history of male breast cancer or symptoms of breast cancer arise. 

CareConnection: What is a mammogram, and when should I get one?

Dr. Howard: A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast that is used to look for early signs of breast cancer. Mammograms are the best tests for doctors to detect breast cancer early and are regularly recommended yearly for women over the age of 45 to 54. Women over the age of 55 should switch to mammograms every two years; however, yearly mammograms are still available.

CareConnection: Can I inherit breast cancer?

Dr. Howard: Yes, breast cancer can be inherited if you have a family history of it. If breast cancer is common in your family, then seeing a doctor or genetic counselor is highly recommended.

CareConnection: How often should I be checked for breast cancer?

Dr. Howard: Women should be checked annually for breast cancer after the age of 45; however, a breast self-exam (BSE) can be performed quickly, and, if symptoms are shown, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

CareConnection: What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Dr. Howard: There are multiple ways of reducing your risk of breast cancer, including:

Limiting alcohol - the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. 

Not smoking - quitting smoking not only is great for your overall health, but there are studies that suggest a link between smoking and breast cancer risk. 

Controlling your weight - being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause. 

Being physically active - physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, can help prevent the risk of breast cancer.  

Breastfeeding - breastfeeding has multiple benefits for your overall health, including reducing the risk of breast cancer.

Limiting dose and duration of hormone therapy - the combination of hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer.

Avoiding exposure to radiation and environmental pollution - many medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation. Reduce your exposure and have these tests only when absolutely necessary.