How to Stay Healthy (and reduce cancer risk)

Limit alcohol.
Women’s risk of developing breast cancer increases as more alcohol is consumed. Based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk, women should generally limit themselves to less than one drink per day.

Don't smoke.
Not smoking is a best practice for your overall health and is a major way to avoid and reduce your cancer risk. Additionally, there is growing evidence that suggests a connection between breast cancer risk and smoking, especially in premenopausal women.

Control your weight.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause. Controlling your weight is one other way to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Be physically active.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce risk of breast cancer. Physical activity can help sustain a healthy weight. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week for the average, healthy adult.

Breast cancer may be prevented in part by breast-feeding. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.

Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy.
More than three to five years of combination hormone therapy increases breast cancer risk. Discuss alternate options, such as non-hormonal therapies or medications, to treat menopausal symptoms. If you choose to continue hormone therapy as the benefits outweigh the risks, limit to the lowest dose that works and monitor the length of time you use them with your physician.

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FAQ/Best Practices

What is dense breast tissue?
Breast density is a normal and fairly common, with 40-50% of the female population having it. Breast tissue is considered dense when a women has more fibroglandular tissue (tissue made up of fibers like nerves or muscles or glands like milk ducts) relative to the fatty tissue. It’s important to be aware of tissue density as dense tissue and tumors both appear white on a mammogram, and may require additional screening.

How do I know if I have dense breast tissue?
Contrary to what you might think, breast density does not correlate to how heavy or firm a woman’s breasts are. Women with dense breast tissue are more likely to develop cancer (studies estimate between 3 and 6 times more likely), and studies show that mammograms are less effective in identifying cancers in women with dense breasts24. In mammograms, cancers can appear white as does dense breast tissue making it difficult to distinguish between. While some states in the U.S. have laws requiring that mammography reports include breast density, there are no recommendations or screening guidelines associated with dense breast assessment. You should discuss your breast cancer risk factors with your doctor.

What should I do if I have dense breast tissue?
Speak with your doctor to determine if secondary screening is appropriate for you. Secondary screening such as MBI, MRI, or ultrasound, for example, may be recommended based on your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Are there any other indicators for having secondary screening?
Your doctor may recommend a MBI or other secondary screening method if your mammogram was indeterminate (the radiologist has a question about whether there is a tumor that the mammogram is not showing clearly). Your doctor may also recommend a MBI exam if you cannot tolerate a MRI or are a candidate based on risk level.

How is MBI different from a mammogram?
MBI is not a replacement for mammography, it is a supplemental exam that is used in addition to mammography. Dense breast tissue as an example, could cause the findings from a mammogram to be inconclusive. Studies have also shown that mammograms are less effective in identifying cancers in dense breasts, because, in mammograms, cancers can appear white, which is the same for dense breast tissue25. As a result, tumors may be masked by dense breast tissue and secondary screening may be helpful in ruling out the presence of cancer. Mammograms are best for structural anatomical imaging, while MBI offers molecular functional imaging enabling your doctor to see physiologic function for both healthy and diseased tissue.

Is the exam more likely to show that I have cancer? If the exam does show a lesion, what is the next step?
MBI, in combination with a standard screening mammography, provides much higher sensitivity (91% compared to 27% sensitivity with mammography alone)26. This means that the likelihood is much higher that a MBI will detect a tumor (possibly at an earlier stage) in dense breast tissue if your mammogram is inconclusive or even negative. If your MBI exam reveals a suspicious lesion, then it is likely that your doctor will suggest a biopsy as a next step. If your MBI exam confirms that you are cancer-free, it may eliminate an unnecessary biopsy. Find out more about MBI.

What if the MBI exam is negative?
MBI has a 99.8 percent negative predictive value26 , meaning the probability that the patient with a negative MBI exam truly doesn’t have breast cancer. Patient can Be Certain that something has not been missed with MBI used as secondary screening.