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A guide for the apprehensive.

A Guide for the Apprehensive

In the United States, the average woman's probability of developing breast cancer at some point in her life is about 9 percent. Many women who have seen this figure do not realize that it is a composite of various risks spread over a 110-year life span -- that the risk in any one age group will be considerably less. For example, up to the age of 50, the risk is only about 1.5 percent. New research data have altered long-held beliefs about breast cancer risks, and only a few of the many factors commonly associated with the disease are now considered of major importance. Many experts now suggest that all women practice self-examination regularly. They offer these basic suggestions:

1. Examine your breasts every month, seven days after the first day of menstruation, so you will be able to identify any true changes. If you are past menopause, do it the same day of each month. Remember, half of all women have lumpy breasts and most lumps are not cancerous.

2. If you should discover some change that worries you, and you are not reassured when a doctor says a biopsy is unnecessary, consult another physician. Most lumps do not require a biopsy, however.

3. If any course of action is suggested to you such as surgery, drugs, or radiation, always get a second opinion. Don't be rushed into making a decision. A good breast specialist will take the time to thoroughly describe all options for diagnosis and treatment, discussing all the risks and benefits with you. In Massachusetts and California, full disclosure is required by law.

4. If you are past menopause, or have a family history of breast cancer or a benign breast condition that makes you apprehensive, or you have been labeled "high risk" by a doctor, you might want to visit a breast cancer center or specialist for evaluation.

A good breast center should offer: (1) immediate attention, (2) individualized education, (3) low-dose mammography, (4) a radiologist trained in reading mammograms, (5) good follow-up and tracking of breast problems, and (6) a team approach to diagnosis and treatment.
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Title Annotation:prevention of breast cancer
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1989
Previous Article:"Preventive" surgery against breast cancer.
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