Wellness Words October 2009

Wellness Words October 2009

HealthLink Littauer’s


Submitted by Carol Tomlinson RN BS, Community Health Educator


According to the Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source, the lifetime risk of an American woman developing breast cancer is one in eight, or about 12%. The term lifetime is important. That means that one in eight women who live to age 89 will have had breast cancer. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. If you’re in your 50’s, your risk is one in twenty-four. While in your 60’s, your risk goes up to one in sixteen.

There is no one casual factor that has been found to explain why one woman gets breast cancer and another one doesn’t. Although a precise cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been established, we’ve identified risk factors such as menses before age 12, menopause after age 55, and first birth after age 30 or never having been pregnant. These translate into more years of breast tissue exposure to higher levels of hormones, which are thought to influence the breast cancer risk.

80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. About 10-15% of women with breast cancer had some family pattern of the disease, which may play a role in their breast cancer development. Only 5-10% has hereditary breast cancer—cancer that’s the result of an abnormal gene.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, which is why regular mammograms – beginning at age 40 – along with clinical breast exams and breast self-exams are so important. In 2004, only 52% of eligible women in New York State had a mammogram, according to National Cancer Institute statistics. In 2007, there were an estimated 178,480 new cases diagnosed. However, it is estimated that 2.4 million women are alive and cancer free today due to early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

Remember, age is the most significant risk factor. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer. Lifestyle factors that are associated with increased risk include post-menopausal obesity, lack of exercise, smoking or frequent exposure to secondhand smoke, and excessive alcohol consumption. Making lifestyle changes to reduce these risks is something we can all do to combat our risk of developing the condition.

Early detection is key! It can’t be stressed enough the importance of yearly screening mammography for women beginning at age 40. Also, become familiar with your breast tissue and report any changes to your doctor immediately. Early detection is essential in reducing deaths from breast cancer.

For more information on breast cancer, contact the American Cancer Society 1-800-725-3185 or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at healthlink@nlh.org or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re celebrating 20 years of being your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital & Nursing Home!