One in eight woman face breast cancer, but there is hope

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One in eight women will be a victim of breast cancer, but there are prevention steps that can be taken.

"Major things women can do to prevent breast cancer are to stay active, don't drink too much alcohol," says Doctor Shannon Penland of South Central Medical in Laurel. "Our greatest risk for getting breast cancer is being a woman."

Another key step in prevention methods are self-breast exams. There are a variety of sites online that give steps for how to conduct a self exam as well as what to look for. Dr. Penland suggests doing these in the shower on a regular basis, and if something seems unusual, contact a doctor to set up a screening.

"For most women we tell them to obtain their routine mammogram starting at the age of 40," says Penland.

However, if you have a family history of breast cancer, you should be much more aware of the risks because it increases your chances of having breast cancer, too.

"That's going to help determine when you should start with more aggressive screening like with mammography," says Penland.

Actress Angelina Jolie has brought world-wide attention to cancer prevention with her recent bilateral mastectomy. Jolie's mother died of ovarian cancer at a young age, which is why Jolie had a special blood test done to see if she would be at risk.

"Women who test positive for a specific gene have a very high lifetime risk of developing breast cancer," says Penland. She says that risk is up to eighty five percent for breast cancer and up to about forty percent for ovarian cancer. The blood test that Jolie had is available in the Pine Belt and costs around $3,000. Dr. Penland says most insurers will cover that cost, but she also says that the test is not necessary for everyone.

"One thing I tell patients to keep in mind is hereditary breast cancer syndromes count for less than ten percent of breast cancers," she says. "I don't think it's something most women without a strong family history should be running out and trying to get done."

However, one thing that everyone- including men- should be aware of is how they take treat their bodies. Dr. Penland says this is a vital part to living a healthy life.

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