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Lifestyle changes and mammograms are keys to fight against breast cancer

Hospital news | Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ashtabula County Medical Center providers remind all women to get an annual mammogram – the gold-standard for diagnosing cancerous breast tissue.

Cancer occurs when abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and have the ability to overtake normal cells.

“Our genetics can increase the possibility of developing cancer, but lifestyle choices and hormones also increase your risk of cancer. We cannot change our genes, but we can change our lifestyles to reduce cancer risk,” said ACMC Family Medicine provider Adeola Fakolade, MD.

Three lifestyle changes you can make right now to lower your risk of breast cancer are:

  • Stop drinking alcohol or limit yourself to one glass or less per day.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, especially in younger women.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week (300+ minutes per week is better).

ACMC Oncologist Shinoj Pattali, MD, said, “18 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are related to lifestyle choices. For example, if you have more than one alcoholic drink per day, your risk doubles. If you are overweight or have less physical activity after menopause, the risk of cancer increases because fat tissue affects estrogen levels, which leads to hormonal causes of breast cancer.”

Mammograms are a crucial test for diagnosing breast cancer.

“A screening mammogram can reduce the risk of breast cancer deaths by as much as 30 percent for women in their 40s to 50s,” Dr. Pattali said. “Today’s technology lets us see the formation of breast cancer as it begins to grow – long before you would ever feel a lump or notice other symptoms.”

Dr. Fakolade said women should begin screening mammograms when they turn 40. However, women with a family history of breast cancer may need to start at a younger age.

She added that self-exams or clinical breast exams are no longer recommended, but if you feel any abnormalities while taking a shower or getting dressed, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider for further evaluation.

“If you have a family history of multiple first-degree or second-degree relatives with breast cancer, tubal cancer, ovarian or peritoneal cancer, you may be at a higher risk and may benefit from risk evaluation with your primary care provider,” Dr. Fakolade said.

If you haven’t seen a primary provider recently or haven’t had a mammogram recently, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Fakolade or any ACMC’s primary care provider in Ashtabula, Conneaut, Geneva, Jefferson, or Orwell by calling 440-997-6969. Your primary care provider can also refer you to an OB/GYN specialist. To schedule a mammogram at ACMC or at ACMC’s Conneaut Family Health Center, call 440-997-6686. A provider order is required to schedule a mammogram.