St. Clair Health: Protect yourself from breast cancer

St. Clair Dr. Sarwat Ahmad
St. Clair Dr. Sarwat Ahmad

Nearly 290,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year according to the American Cancer Society. While there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, lowering your risk and early detection can be helpful.

“We know that early-stage breast cancer has an excellent prognosis and that earlier detection has led to improvements in survival,” says Sarwat B. Ahmad, M.D., a breast surgeon who recently joined St. Clair Medical Group from Mayo Clinic. “Still, women should focus on prevention by maintaining self-awareness of their breasts and learning the risk factors associated with the disease.”

According to Dr. Ahmad, your risk can be affected by a combination of factors that can and cannot be changed, including:

  • Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, so women with average to low risk should begin getting regular screenings by age 45.
  • Genetic Mutations: Screenings may start as early as age 25 if you are at higher risk of breast cancer due to an inherited genetic mutation.
  • Family History: Genetic testing and earlier screenings are recommended if a relative was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s.
  • Past Treatments: Women who received high doses of radiation to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
  • Weight: There is a strong link between obesity and breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women.
  • Lifestyle: Regular physical activity and limiting alcohol consumption have been associated with lower risk of breast cancer.

Having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer, but Dr. Ahmad suggests you speak with a doctor about your risk and when to begin screenings. Contact St. Clair Medical Group Breast & General Surgery at 412.942.7850 or visit their website to learn about their prevention and early detection services.