There is no single key to preventing breast cancer. For many women, the odds of getting it are raised by genetics, a factor they can’t control. For the 90 percent of breast cancer patients who are not genetically predisposed to the disease, some potential causes have been suggested. However, a preventative strategy is difficult to create with any degree of accuracy.
Healthy behavior such as eating well, regular exercise, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking all make for a good start. But these are good practices whether you remain cancer-free or not. Just as it is still impossible to trace causes of the disease in individuals, it is impossible to know how to prevent it.
Preventative Medication and Surgery
Women with hormone receptor-sensitivity are at high risk of developing breast cancer. They may be prescribed tamoxifen to lower their risks. Tamoxiphen and Raloxiphen have been approved by the FDA for the prevention of breast cancer in high-risk patients. They yield a 40 to 50 percent total reduction in breast cancer and a 70 percent reduction in ER-positive tumors. However, the side-effect of tamoxiphen may include endometrial cancer and thromboembolic events, so many high-risk patients avoid the drug.
And women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may want to consider a preventative mastectomy. Studies have shown that a double mastectomy can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by almost 90 percent. Other women elect to have preventative mastectomies on their cancer-free breasts after developing cancer in the other breast. A doctor can best advise on these courses of action.
Perhaps the best prevention is to stay alert. Breast cancer that is found and treated in its early stages can be cured more than 90 percent of the time. That is why many cancer organizations suggest monthly self exams and clinical breast exams every four years for all women in their 20s. And the American Cancer Society suggests that women have a mammogram every year after age 40. Only a woman and her doctor can decide whether annual mammograms are right at any given age. But it is essential that women are careful not to let too many years pass between tests.