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Understand Your Family History This Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Dona Perry, MD, Strategic Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to honor those affected by the disease and a time to recommit to regular preventive care. Exercise, nutrition and other lifestyle choices influence breast cancer risk, but other uncontrollable factors such as genetics and family history also play a role. 

It’s important to discuss family breast cancer history with your parents and other relatives. Then, with that information, when you’re 40 years old, have a conversation with your obstetrician gynecologist (OB/GYN) or primary care provider to discuss your risk for breast cancer and determine the best time for you to begin getting mammograms. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said that Black women — who are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women — are more likely to be diagnosed in their 40s and with more aggressive breast cancers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 to 10% of breast cancers are hereditary — meaning cancer runs in your family and could be caused by a change in certain genes that you inherited from your mother or father. 

Beyond genetic and family factors, preventive care is the strongest defense and surest route to early detection, which may prevent poor health outcomes down the line. Establishing a healthy relationship with a trusted medical team can help with identifying the best screening locations and cadence based on age, lifestyle, family history, medical profile and other personal factors.

Take a moment to learn your family history. If unknown, talk to your doctor about ways to better understand your risk — like genetic testing. An annual wellness visit can go a long way to help you stay healthy. 

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association