Here’s everything young women need to know about early breast cancer prevention

Breast cancer awareness and early prevention is critical for all women, especially for those under 40 who may also have a family history of the disease. In this episode of ITK: Hack the Cycle, our host Nadya Okamoto (@nadyaokamoto) sits down with Dr. Sarah Cate, a breast surgical oncologist, to discuss everything young women need to know about early prevention and detection.

First, Dr. Cate shows Nadya a mammography machine, which compresses the breast to examine the tissue using X-ray. She explains that a mammogram usually takes 30-45 seconds per view, and that a technician is always in the room and can stop the procedure if you’re uncomfortable.

Dr. Cate says that mammograms typically start at age 40 for average-risk patients. Those with extensive family history of breast cancer are considered high risk and should start getting regular mammograms at age 30.

Next, Nadya asks Dr. Cate to explain what breast cancer is exactly and what symptoms are associated with the disease.

“Breast cancer starts in the breast, and basically any cancer is abnormal growth of cells,” Dr. Cate says. She explains that breast cancer can have a variety of different symptoms, including a nipple suddenly turning inward, blood coming out of the nipple, the skin of the breast looking like the skin of an orange, or feeling a lump inside the breast.

Though breast cancer begins in the breast, it often spreads to the lymph nodes underneath the armpit on the same side of the body. The lymph nodes are then the gate-keepers preventing cancer from entering the body.

Nadya asks Dr. Cate if there are any ways to lessen the risk of getting breast cancer. Dr. Cate says that while family risk or genetic mutations can’t be modified, some ways to reduce risk include maintaining a BMI of 25 or lower and limiting alcohol consumption to five standard-pour drinks per week.

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