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Breast Cancer Awareness

By Andrea Achenbach, MSN, ARNP, FNP-C | Sycamore Health Center | 10/16/2014

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss reducing your risk for breast cancer.

Risk for breast cancer can be divided into two groups.  First, there are risk factors you cannot change. Those factors include: gender, age, genetics, family or personal history of breast cancer, race and ethnicity, and breast tissue density. Women who have had more menstrual periods based on early menses or late menopause and/or previous chest radiation may also be at higher risk.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure has also been linked to breast cancer. DES is a synthetic form of estrogen, a female hormone. DES was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and pregnancy-related complications.

The second group of risk factors includes things we can control to reduce our threat of breast cancer:

Having children
Having multiple pregnancies or many children at a younger age (under 35) can reduce your overall breast cancer risk.

Breastfeeding may also contribute to reduced risk; however, for risk to be reduced a woman must breastfeed for one and a half to two years.

Avoiding excessive alcohol
Increased alcohol use has shown to increase breast cancer risk. Drink alcohol in moderation only. Drinking in moderation for women is defined as one of the following drinks daily:

12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Maintaining healthy weight
Studies have shown that gaining weight after menopause may lead to a higher risk of breast cancer. Follow a healthy and well-balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein. 

There is a growing body of evidence that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. Be active! Exercise at least two hours per week. 

Getting Regular Exams
By the time a woman is 40, she should have a clinical breast exam every year, in addition to monthly self-exams. Women under 40 should also be screened every one to three years. We provide women’s breast exams, as well as other gynecological services at Sycamore Health Center. If you are overdue for your exam, please call us at 319-337-9066 to schedule an appointment.

For more information about breast cancer, the American Cancer Society has a very user friendly website:

*Photo courtesy: JohnONolan

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A faculty practice unit under College of Nursing Health Care, the Sycamore Health Center is a primary care and mental health services clinic operated entirely by nurse practitioners. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 319-377-9066, email or visit

Posted On: 
Oct 16th, 2014