Affectionate couple -- a man kisses a woman's head

It's likely that at some point in your life breast cancer will touch you, if not personally then through your connections with family and friends. That's because it's the most common form of cancer in women, affecting one in eight females in their lifetime, according to Breastcancer.org. And it affects men, too—more than 2,000 are diagnosed each year.

The good news is that early detection has a positive impact on surviving the disease. Knowing the risk factors and your family health history and keeping up with regular breast self-exams and screenings can give you peace of mind and help you catch breast cancer early.

Understand your risk factors first

Educating yourself about the risk factors associated with breast cancer allows you to be more proactive about symptoms.

Risk factors you can affect:

  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to estrogen (for example, through hormone replacement therapy or drinking too much alcohol)
  • Use of oral contraceptives

Factors out of your control:

  • Gender: While women are at a greater risk for breast cancer, men can get it too.
  • Age: The older you are, the higher your risk factor. Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55. American Cancer Society statistics show that most men are diagnosed around age 68.
  • Family history: If a first-degree relative had breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be at a greater risk for getting it.
  • Race: Caucasian women are slightly more likely to contract the disease than women of other races.
  • Personal history: If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer already, your risk of getting it again goes up.
  • For women: Dense breast tissue, early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having children later in life or never having had children, or genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2) all increase risk.
  • For men: Klinefelter Syndrome, liver disease, testicular conditions or genetic mutations (BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2 or PTEN) all may increase risk.

Regardless of the risks, it's wise to talk to your doctor about lifestyle choices that can lower your risk of getting cancer.

Take charge of your breast health

Detecting breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25 to 30 percent or more, according to Breastcancer.org.

For women, a mammogram is the best way to find cancer even before symptoms appear. The American Cancer Society recommends women between the ages of 45 and 54 get screened every year. Women in a high-risk category may start at an earlier age. See covered preventive services.

Since early detection is the best protection, most Asuris health plans cover annual in-network preventive mammograms at 100 percent. It's important to know that if something is detected during the mammogram the exam may be considered diagnostic. In that case, there may be a cost associated to it that would apply toward your deductible. Be sure to talk to your provider about potential costs when you check in.

We also offer other tools and programs to help you be proactive about your health, including:

  • Find a doctor: Schedule your annual breast exam or mammogram with a provider in your network.
  • Cost estimator: Shop around and compare your out-of-pocket costs for a mammogram, based on your health benefits.
  • Guidance and support: If you're diagnosed with breast cancer, contact us and we'll connect you with helpful resources available through your benefits.

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