While one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life, better prevention and early detection have played a large part in reducing the number of deaths due to the disease. From breast self-exams to 3D mammograms, women now have more control over the disease than ever before.

Prevention and early detection are key to survival because many women with breast cancer don’t have any symptoms. Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk:

Breast Cancer Prevention

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Follow a low-fat diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks or less per day

Breast Cancer Detection

The survival rate for breast cancer caught early is 98 percent. Detection starts with breast self-exams as early as age 20 and continues with regular breast cancer screenings as you age. Follow these steps to detect breast cancer early:

  • Know your risk factors  
  • Perform a monthly breast self-exam
  • Have annual clinical exam by your doctor
  • Get regular screening mammograms
  • Consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Risk factors for breast cancer include the following:

  • Age
  • Age at the start of menstruation
  • Age at first live birth
  • Number of first-degree relatives (mother, sisters) with breast cancer
  • Number of previous breast biopsies (whether positive or negative)
  • At least one breast biopsy with atypical hyperplasia

Other risk factors include age at menopause, dense breast tissue on a mammogram, use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, a high-fat diet, drinking alcohol, low physical activity, obesity, and environmental exposure.

Breast Self Exams

Breast self-exams help you know what’s normal for you and empower you to detect the early signs of cancer. Having some lumps is natural, and a regular breast self-exam will empower you to detect the early signs of cancer. Plus, they are free and only takes a few minutes once a month. While it’s best to begin doing a monthly breast self-exam in your early 20s, it’s never too late to start.

Clinical Breast Exam

A clinical breast exam is an exam of your breasts by a health expert, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse or physician assistant. In your 20s and 30s, you should get a clinical breast exam from your gynecologist or your primary care doctor every three years. After age 40, you should get a clinical breast exam as part of your regular yearly physical.


A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. It is the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. Mercy Health is equipped with the most advanced imaging technology including digital mammography, breast ultrasound and breast MRI to discover health issues, before they become problems.

Screening and diagnostic mammography services

  • 2D mammogram
  • 3D mammogram (digital tomosynthesis)
  • Mobile mammogram
  • Diagnostic mammogram
  • Molecular breast imaging
  • Breast MRI
  • Breast ultrasound

Genetic Testing/Counseling

Genetic testing is an option for women who are concerned that they may have the likelihood to develop breast cancer. The genetic test analyzes your DNA to look for a gene mutation, usually BRCA1 or BRCA2, that may raise your risk for developing the disease. Some of our Mercy Health locations offer genetic testing and comprehensive genetic counseling by a certified genetic counselor.

Why Choose Mercy Health?

Mercy Health's leading doctors and innovative technology separate us from the pack. However, what truly makes a difference is our caregivers’ compassion. Here, you’ll find that our nurses and doctors treat you like family and put a true investment in your care. Reach out today to learn more or to find a breast cancer expert near you.

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