Breast cancer prevention: The good news

October 16, 2019 Swedish Cancer Team

Breast cancer prevention starts with knowing your risk. Routine mammography screening and self-breast exams are key components of every woman’s health, regardless of risk.



Being female, growing older and having a family history of breast cancer are strong risk factors for the development of breast cancer. Although you can’t control these factors, it is important to understand them so you can consider your best screening options and risk reduction measures such as healthy lifestyle changes.

Approximately 250,000 new cases of breast cancer occur yearly. Find out what you can do to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, even if you may not think you are at risk.

Your individual breast cancer risk

You can evaluate your individual breast cancer risk with assessment tools that were developed by scientists studying risk factors, population and the incidence of breast cancer.  Your doctor can help you develop a personal risk factor evaluation.

Many factors may contribute to the development of breast cancer. These include:

  • Being female and getting older
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Genetic mutations
  • Prior radiation to the chest area
  • Reproductive history/use of hormone replacement
  • Dense breasts as described in mammography
  • Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol intake, being overweight and lack of exercise

How lifestyle can decrease risk

Lifestyle choices can influence your breast cancer risk. However, a low risk does not always equal zero risk. Women at all levels can take these steps for prevention:

  • Adopt a plant-based diet – your diet should contain lots of fruits and vegetables, low in fat and animal protein.
  • Aim for a healthy body weight – being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. Maintain an ideal body weight (BMI of 21-25) to help reduce risk.
  • Reduce alcohol intake – alcohol increases your risk for breast cancer. Limit your alcohol intake to three or fewer drinks per week.
  • Get plenty of exercise – each week try to get four to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise to help reduce your risk.
  • Get mammograms – routine screening mammography is an essential component of your breast care. When to begin screening and how often should be a shared decision between you and your doctor based on your risk factors.
  • Conduct self-breast exams – getting to know your own body through routine breast  exam is an important step in your self-care. Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.

Screenings for early detection

Screening is done to detect diseases such as breast cancer in people who do not have any symptoms. The goal is early detection, giving you the best chance of treating it effectively.

Mammography is the most widely used screening to detect breast cancer and has proven to help reduce mortality as early treatment may increase your chances of surviving breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that — since regular mammography use started in the 1980s, breast cancer deaths in women have fallen 43 percent.

Mammography screening guidelines have been one of the most controversial healthcare guidelines in the United States. Swedish supports a shared decision-making model while endorsing the American Cancer Society’s screening guidelines. To help you make an informed decision about when to begin and how often, discuss with your primary care doctor the benefits and risks of undergoing a screening mammogram in light of your personal values and risk factors.

Mobile mammography: On the move saving lives

At Swedish, we value raising awareness of breast cancer prevention, risk assessment and early detection for all women in our community. We can reach underserved populations and access-challenged communities through our Swedish Mobile Mammography Program. These mobile units (Swedish Breast Care Express) help provide the same high quality screening services you would receive from the Swedish Breast Care Center at locations throughout Puget Sound. See Swedish Mobile Mammography schedule here.

Swedish partners with Community Health Clinics, corporations, local tribes and various community organizations to bring these services out into the community and break the barriers to screening for many women.

Getting support

If you are facing a breast cancer diagnosis, gain comfort and support through the stories of other women who have journeyed down the path. As part of the Swedish partnership with the Seattle Storm WNBA team and their “Wear Pink” night to raise breast cancer awareness, team members sat down with cancer survivors and a Swedish surgeon as they shared their experiences.

Find a doctor

Breast cancer care begins with prevention and early detection. Regardless of your stage of life, Swedish is here to partner with you, so you can take charge of your health. Through young adulthood, the childbearing years, midlife and beyond, Swedish is here every step of the way. Find a doctor in our provider directory or a specialty below.

Gynecology and wellness

Pregnancy and childbirth


Specialty services

Breast cancer care begins with prevention and early detection. #screeningmammography #breastcancerscreening #breastcare #womenshealth #breastcancerprevention



Swedish Cancer Institute

Swedish Mobile Mammography Program

Swedish Mobile Mammography Schedule

Wellness in breast cancer survivors

Less confusion about mammography guidelines

Community resources

What you should know about online information for breast cancer


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Swedish Cancer Team is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date insights about treatments, prevention, care and support available. We know cancer diagnoses strain you both mentally and physically, and we hope to provide a small piece of hope to you or your loved ones who are fighting the cancer battle with useful and clinically-backed advice.

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