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Understanding the Risk Factors of Breast Cancer in Seniors

A few weeks ago, I learned a dear friend and colleague had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This vital, energetic woman was blindsided by the news, as was I when she told me. She had been very busy with her typical, hectic schedule, which is why she postponed her originally-scheduled mammogram by approximately six weeks, only to learn she shouldn’t have waited.

As she approaches the age of 60, my friend is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, while she continues to press on with her professional responsibilities, as well as her personally-fulfilling and cherished role as “Grammy” to her grandchildren.

Although, my friend may or may not be considered a senior, I’m sharing her story during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in hopes that seniors at risk of breast cancer will not postpone their mammograms.

Those at greatest risk for breast cancer are women, but men can also have the disease. Genetics, family history, breast density and chest radiation treatments (for separate conditions, or incidents of cancer), are also risk factors beyond your control.

Risk factors you can control:

  • Women who give birth to their first child before age 30 are at lower risk.
  • Post-menopausal women who use hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progesterone have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Women who drink two or more alcoholic beverages a day are at one to one-and-a-half greater risk than women who do not drink.
  • Women who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to the disease.
  • Women who lactate and breast-feed have a lower risk of breast cancer.

There are physical changes that you can see or feel when you check your breasts, which you should do on a regular basis. They are:

  • A lump or thickening in or around the breast and underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A noticeable nipple discharge (not including lactation)
  • A nipple that turns inward
  • A change in the color or feel of the skin on or near the breast or underarm area

The American Cancer Society recommends women between the ages of 45-54, have an annual mammogram. If you are age 55+, and in good physical health, a mammogram might only be needed every-other year, if you have fewer risk factors. However, each woman and situation is unique. Perhaps, if my friend had not postponed her mammogram, the cancer would’ve been detected and treated sooner, and she wouldn’t be under the physical, mental and emotional stress that cancer of any kind provokes.

If breast cancer is detected, or if there are reasons for further examinations, ultrasounds, MRI scans, experimental breast imaging, biopsy and other tests may be in order, as well as treatment options like radiation and chemotherapy. Additionally, research and clinical trials continue throughout the United States and the world to discover new, successful ways to treat breast cancer.

If you know a senior who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, a compassionate caregiver can help with homemaker services, like light housework, laundry, meal preparation, and transportation assistance to and from appointments. I gladly offer a FREE in-home consultation to discuss specific needs and ways our caregivers can lend a hand. I also have numerous resources that can help when breast cancer invades your family. It’s not only a disease that affects the person with the diagnosis, but it deeply affects everyone who loves them.

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539


American Cancer Society