Oct 16, 2023 Ask the Doctor October 2023

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Dr.EladoumikdachiBreast cancer occurs most often in women between ages 45 and 75, with the highest incidence in the 6th decade of life. Some risk factors – such as lifestyle choices – can be controlled, while others cannot.

Firas Eladoumikdachi (Eladou), MD, FACS, Breast Surgical Oncology, at the Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, provides answers to some common questions about breast cancer and screenings.

Can breast cancer be prevented?

Depending on your risk, there are certain preventative measures that can be done to help decrease the chance of getting breast cancer. These can range from healthy lifestyle, such as regular exercise, for all women, to certain medications, such as Tamoxifen and Raloxifene for women with higher than average risk, and risk reducing surgical procedures for women with certain genetic mutations. Understanding your risk can help you develop a personalized medical plan with your health care professional that also includes preventative screening. Early detection and prompt treatment can save lives when breast cancer occurs.

If you are concerned about preventing breast cancer, make an appointment with an RWJBarnabas Health physician to discuss.

Is breast cancer inherited?

All cancers involve changes or mutations in a person's genes. Usually, several changes are required before cancer develops. If a person inherits a genetic mutation from a parent, that person has a higher risk of developing cancer. It is currently believed that less than 10% of breast cancers involve an inherited genetic mutation.

How often should I have a mammogram?

Although experts have different recommendations for frequency of screening mammography for women with average risk for developing breast cancer, most agree that it should be every 1-2 years starting at age 50, and some at age 40.

The American College of Radiology and the American Society of Breast Surgeons recommend starting screening mammography every year at age 40. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends yearly screening for women ages 45 to 54, and every 1-2 years for ages 55 and higher. They recommend an individualized approach using shared decision making for women agers 40-44. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74, with an individualized approach using shared decision making for women agers 40-49.

However, screening recommendations can start at earlier ages, and may involve other modalities than mammography alone, if there are risk factors. The ACS also suggests women ages 55 and older could change to screening mammograms every two years if they have a health history that supports such a decision.

Women should talk with their doctors about personal risk factors before deciding when to start mammograms and how often to have them.

Does breastfeeding either cause or prevent breast cancer?

Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

If you would like to discuss your breast cancer risks, find a physician near you.

How does diet affect breast cancer?

Some studies indicate that a diet low in fat, especially in postmenopausal women may decrease death from breast cancer. Others indicate that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, and olive oil may decrease breast cancer risk but further studies are needed.

Obesity, and weight gain, however, have been linked to increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. So, a diet that maintains a healthy weight may help decrease the risk of breast cancer.

Do men ever get breast cancer?

Yes. According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

What role does estrogen replacement therapy play in breast cancer?

Each woman should work with her health care provider to evaluate individual risk factors when making decisions about hormone replacement therapy. If hormone therapy is used, it is usually recommended to use the lowest effective dose to control symptoms for as short a time as possible.

“When breast cancer is caught early, the prognosis is often excellent. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer found early and confined to the breast is 99 percent,” adds Dr. Eladou.

Our dedicated centers for breast care are nationally accredited and certified. RWJUH Hamilton offers comprehensive mammography services in a warm and welcoming environment close to home and now offers appointments every other Saturday.


Visit rwjbh.org/hamilton to schedule your mammogram at RWJUH Hamilton today..