Healthy You - Every Day

Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening Tips

Find out what surgical oncologist Lori Alfonse, DO, wants everyone to know

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in individuals born biologically female in the United States.

While it is a devastating condition, there is good news: Some breast cancer risk factors can be controlled, and screenings can help detect the condition in its earliest, most treatable stages.

“I always say that the two biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are having breasts and living long enough to get it,” says surgical oncologist Lori Alfonse, DO, Deputy Physician in Chief of Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. “That’s why it’s so important to take the preventive steps we can and be committed to getting regular screenings.”

To help you take charge of your breast health, Dr. Alfonse is sharing the following prevention and screening tips everyone should know:

Tip one: Discuss your family cancer history with your primary care clinician

Discussing your family’s cancer history with your care team will help identify if you are eligible for genetic testing (which can identify if any inherited gene mutations put you are higher risk for breast and other cancers).

If you are found to have a mutation, your care team will refer you to specialized clinicians who will make recommendations for follow-up care. This could include getting screened for certain cancers earlier or more frequently, taking certain medicines to lower your risk or undergoing preventive surgery.

“Taking these steps allows your care team to prevent cancer altogether or find it before it finds you,” Dr. Alfonse says.

Tip two: Set up a screening plan with your care team

It’s recommended that people born biologically female who are age 40 or older get a screening mammogram once a year.

“To determine the best screening plan for you, talk to your primary care clinician or gynecologist at your next visit.” - Lori Alfonse, DO

However, if you are at higher risk for breast cancer, it may be recommended that you start getting screenings at an earlier age, get screened more frequently or get other screening tests done (in addition to your mammogram).

For example, some high-risk patients may benefit from MRIs or automated breast ultrasounds (ABUS) as secondary screenings after their mammogram.

“To determine the best screening plan for you, talk to your primary care clinician or gynecologist at your next visit,” Dr. Alfonse says.

Tip three: Eat a balanced diet

Making sure your diet is chock-full of foods that are rich in fiber and low in fat can reduce your cancer risk.

“I recommend filling your daily meals with whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans,” Dr. Alfonse says. “Eating whole grains directly reduces your risk for colorectal cancer. Adding fiber to your diet will help keep your weight healthy, which in turn lowers your risk for other cancers.”

It’s also best to avoid processed foods (specifically processed meats) and limit the amount of sugar-sweetened and alcoholic beverages you drink.

“Eating organic produce can also reduce your risk by limiting the pesticides you’re exposed to,” Dr. Alfonse says.

Tip four: Manage and reduce your stress

“Most people know that stress is bad for their heart, but most people don’t know that it can have cancer-related consequences as well,” Dr. Alfonse says.

Our immune systems are negatively impacted by long-term, high levels of stress, and related hormones can limit your body’s ability to destroy cancerous cells and prevent them from spreading. Stress also causes increased blood supply, which can help cancers grow more quickly.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to figure out ways that you can reduce your stress.

“Figuring out how to reduce your stress level is a trial-and-error process unique to you,” Dr. Alfonse says. “Some people find that meditation, exercise, reading or journaling helps them. Others find scheduling time for self-care and setting boundaries in their work and personal lives to be beneficial.”

If you find that your stress levels are consistently high and you are having trouble managing them yourself, seeking out mental health support can be helpful.

Taking control of your health

“Taking steps to reduce your breast cancer risk and staying on top of your screenings can make all the difference,” Dr. Alfonse says.

Also, if you find yourself experiencing any symptoms of breast cancer, like a lump, a nipple that turns inward, discharge from your nipples that is not breast milk, breast skin that has dimpling like an orange peel or breast swelling, reach out to your primary care clinician to schedule an appointment.

“You know your body best, which is why listening to it and taking action based on what you’re experiencing is key,” Dr. Alfonse says. “If something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait. Call your care team right away.”


Our Breast Health Services program gives you easy access to the most advanced breast cancer screening technologies, including 3D mammograms. Our commitment to delivering exceptional care includes accurate testing and immediate support from a nurse navigator for any abnormal findings.

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