Health Department provides tips to help prevent breast cancer

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, October 7, 2023

Early detection of breast cancer saves lives, but Mississippi has one of the lowest breast cancer screening rates in the nation for older women. More than one-fourth of the state’s women do not receive regular screening that could potentially save their lives.

In 2023 alone, more than 2,000 Mississippi women could be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Women at risk

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Any woman can get breast cancer, at any age. But some groups are more likely to be affected. Men can develop breast cancer, as well.

African-American women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer. Their tumors are often found at a later, more advanced stage when treatment is less effective.

A family history of breast cancer, being over age 50, or being overweight after menopause can all increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Getting screened

Breast cancer screening can be as simple as an exam in one’s family doctor’s office to check for early signs. It may also include an x-ray of the breasts, called a mammogram. Women age 40 and older should be routinely screened, at least every two years.

Screening is important because it can find signs of possible cancer before it becomes more serious. Detecting cancer early means quicker treatment, more effective treatment, a better chance of recovering, and less risk to health and life.

Women without insurance that covers screening may be able to get help through the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Breast & Cervical Cancer program.

What you can do

Stay in touch with your health by performing a self-exam each month. A few minutes is all it takes to spot potential problems ahead of time. For pointers, visit

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent breast cancer from occurring or reoccurring. A healthy weight and regular physical activity lower the risk of developing breast cancer, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help with prevention. Quitting smoking is an essential step in preventing a wide range of cancers.

Know the signs

Though breast cancer can develop without early symptoms, every woman should know certain signs that could indicate breast cancer. Any of these signs should be reported to a doctor.

• A new lump in the breast or under the arm

• Thickening or swelling of part of the breast, or any change in size or shape

• Irritation or dimpling of breast skin

• Redness or flaky skin on the breast or in the nipple area

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood

• Pain in any area of the breast

Know your risk factors

Breast cancer cannot always be prevented, but the risk can be reduced by making certain lifestyle changes.

Risk factors include:

• Menstruation — staring your period prior to age 12; starting menopause after age 55

• Motherhood — having children after age 35 or never having children; not breastfeeding

• Hormones — hormone replacement therapy (HRT); dense breasts (more breast tissue than fat tissue)

• Lifestyle — getting less than 4 hours of exercise weekly; not keeping a healthy weight, especially after menopause; drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day

• Family history and genetics — relatives with breast or ovarian cancer at a young age; changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes related to breast cancer

• Other — getting older; radiation treatment to the chest area; breast cancer or certain other breast problems in the past

Having one or more risk factors does not mean a person will develop breast cancer. Some women will also have breast cancer even without any of these risks. So women need to talk to their doctors about what they can do to lower risks, and what is the right screening for each individual.