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In Canada, breast cancer is still the most common cancer diagnosed in women. The percentage of deaths from breast cancer has decreased by 44% since the peak in 1986. This is due to the early detection recommendations by regular mammography screening.

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, we would like to remind and encourage you to know the facts and take action toward your health care.

First of all, know your risks.

Even through all the research and studies done on breast cancer, there is still no known single cause. Risk factors are things that can increase your risk to develop the disease. Even with multiple risk factors, this does not mean one will develop breast cancer. There are also people with no identifiable risk factors who have developed the disease. Here are some of the main risk factors:

  • Age: Your chance of getting breast cancer increases with age. The majority of cases are diagnosed in women over 50 years of age.
  • Gender: Breast cancer is responsible for over 26% of all newly diagnosed cancers in women. Less than 1% of breast cancer diagnoses are in men.
  • Personal History: Those who have had breast cancer in the past have a higher risk of re-occurrence.
  • Family History: Having one first-degree relative (such as mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles your risk.
  • Hormonal Factors: Early onset menses (before the age of 12), late menopause (after age 50), oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies may increase your risk.
  • Benign breast disease
  • Obesity: Studies have shown that the way we live influences our risk of developing breast cancer. Therefore, we should strive to be a healthy weight, eat well and be active.

Who should be screened?

Women aged 40-49 should talk to their physician about their risk factors and see if there is any benefit to early mammography. Studies have not yet shown the benefits to regular mammography screening in those younger than 50 years of age with no risk factors. Women aged 50-69 should have regular mammograms every two years.

Be proactive! It is important to speak with your family physician or PCN nurse about your risk factors. Don't put it off. Get your routine mammogram! For more information, visit or

Submitted by Sarah Bryson, a Registered Nurse working in the HealthWORX Medical Clinic, Medicine Hat, AB.

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