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HAHRC Beats: Breast Cancer: Lower Your Risk, and Get a Mammogram

In our community we have known, seen, or heard about someone who has suffered from breast cancer. Many of us have suffered through it personally. We see the strong women who fight the disease; we see families change their lives to help their loved one go through surgery or treatment. We also sometimes see the hardship, the stress, and the loss. Breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among women in the United States, and the second-most common cause of cancer-related death. Each week in Oregon and southwest Washington, 63 men and women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 11 will die.

Breast cancer starts out as a few tiny cells in the breast tissue. It can grow for years before a woman notices a lump. Sometimes, it can grow through the breast and never feel like a lump. The bigger it grows, the harder it is to get rid of. Many times, women with breast cancer don’t see anything or feel anything different, don’t have any pain, and have no way of knowing that they have breast cancer —except for getting a mammogram.


“The Gorge-us Dance in Pink Zumbathon” at St. Francis House, 3686 Davis Drive (Mid Valley Elementary School) on Friday, Oct. 21 from 5:30-8 p.m., and wear pink! Mid-Columbia Medical Center, Providence Hood River and other community partners will be working together to create a healthier community by raising breast cancer awareness and providing other local resources and information. There will be a photo booth, fun activities, free drinks, snacks, t-shirts, water bottles and a free raffle ticket will be given to all participants for a chance to win pink exercise equipment and a Victoria’s Secret gift card (donated by MCMC’s Breast Health for Strong Families program).

Mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breast, and they are the best way to find out if you have breast cancer. They can detect breast cancer when it is the size of a grain of rice. When breast cancer is small, doctors can remove all the cancer cells completely, so that the woman is “cured” (cancer-free).

The mammogram appointment is usually about 15 minutes long. Most health insurance completely covers the cost of mammograms. If it doesn’t, call the Breast Health for Strong Families program (541-506-6418) to see if you qualify for a free mammogram. This program can also help you pay for transportation to your appointment.

According to the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen, there are risks factors that increase our risk of having breast cancer, but there are also things we can do to lower our risk.

What decreases your risk of getting breast cancer?

Having children. Women who have their first child at age 35 or younger can have a decreased risk.

Breastfeed. Breastfeeding for at least 12 months may lower your risk.

Maintain a Healthy Weight. Being overweight after menopause can increase your risk.

Exercise. Women who get regular exercise may have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive.# Get either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week (or a combination of these).

Drink Less Alcohol. Drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day.

Three important ways to find breast cancer early

Know your risk. Ask your doctor if you have a high risk of getting breast cancer.

Know what is normal for you. Know what your breasts usually look and feel like so you will notice any changes. Report changes to your doctor.

Get screened. Get your mammogram every year beginning at age 40.

Risks you can’t control

Being a woman. Just being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. Less than 1 percent of people with breast cancer are men.

Getting older. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer.

Genetics. Only about 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are related to genes, but if you do have certain genetic characteristics, your risk for getting breast cancer is much higher than normal.

Family history of breast cancer. Most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer, but women who have first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) with breast cancer have a higher risk of getting it.

Personal history of breast cancer. If you have had breast cancer before, you’re more likely to get it again.

Race and ethnicity. The incidence of breast cancer is highest in Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian women (in that order), but any woman of any race or ethnicity can get breast cancer.

Dense breasts. Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, fibrous tissue, and glandular tissue. “Dense breasts” are made up of a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue, but not much fatty tissue. Women with dense breasts have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. You can only find out if you have dense breasts by getting a mammogram.

Menstrual periods. Women who started having their period before age 12, and/or they went through menopause after age 55, have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.

Healthy Active Hood River County (HAHRC) is a community healthy living coalition. HAHRC promotes wellness through increased physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco use prevention, behavioral health, prevention of addictions and policy and environmental change. Join their next meeting Nov. 22 at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Providence Hood River Hospital Boardroom.

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