What You Should Know About Breast Cancer in Women 65+

by: Kara Pitt, MD, FACOG, Springfield Gynecology

A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. If you are a senior, or a caregiver for a senior who is over 65, it is important to know the common risk factors for breast cancer and how appropriate preventative measures can help.

Weight Gain and Menopause
High levels of estrogen are associated with greater risk for developing breast cancer.  After menopause, the majority of estrogen comes from body fat, so losing weight can decrease your risk of breast cancer. Sticking to a healthy diet and exercise program designed for weight loss can help you keep estrogen levels low and help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Self-Exams
Monthly self-exams are as important for seniors as they are for younger adults. Ask your healthcare clinician how to perform these exams correctly. Family caregivers should also be alert for visible signs of breast cancer when assisting elders with bathing and personal hygiene. Men also get breast cancer, so monthly self-exams should be routine for men as well.

Alcohol
According to the American Cancer Society, drinking two to five alcoholic beverages per day increases a woman’s breast cancer risk by 1.5 percent. A good goal is to limit alcoholic intake to one drink a day, at the most, and to quit drinking completely if there is any risk of medication interference.

Tobacco
Seniors who smoke are at greater risk for many kinds of cancer. Smoking directly affects the breasts. Quitting is very important and free, local tobacco cessation programs are available to help.

Personal History of Breast Cancer
We cannot change our genetics, history, or any past cancer diagnoses. However, well-woman exams and routine screening schedules are essential for early detection. Ultimately, these important steps play a huge role in the success of breast cancer treatments.

If you have questions or would like more information, please talk with your doctor, or contact Springfield Gynecology at Springfield Hospital, 802-885-7561. Mammograms can be scheduled by calling 802-885-7669.   ###