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TRICARE Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer survial rate chart. (Courtesy graphic)

Breast cancer survial rate chart. (Courtesy graphic)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 180,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2008, making breast cancer the second most common form of cancer in American women.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to one of the most powerful tools in your anti-cancer arsenal: knowledge. Proper prevention and detection are easily handled by simply making a few smart lifestyle choices and scheduling regular screenings.

What Causes Breast Cancer?
While no one knows exactly what causes breast cancer to develop in some people and not in others, science has identified many high risk factors which increase an individual's chances of developing it. You can avoid many of these risk factors simply by making some healthy choices. 

- Exercise. In addition to its many other benefits, studies suggest people who exercise have a decreased chance of developing any cancer, not just breast cancer. 

-  Quit Smoking. Not only will your heart, lungs, and mouth thank you, but after a few years, your added risk of developing any cancer will drop substantially. 

- Maintain A Healthy Body Weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists being overweight as a cancer risk factor. Even if exercise "isn't for you," you can still keep trim without breaking a sweat. Walk for ten minutes a night and see a nutritionist to get off to a great start. 

- Limit Your Alcohol Consumption. Having more than one drink a day is considered a high risk factor.

TRICARE provides a robust benefit to help you screen for and identify this potentially life-threatening but curable problem, including physical examinations for women 40 and older. Annual mammograms for women 39 and older, or 35 and older for those at high risk of developing breast cancer are also covered.

An Ounce of Detection ...
Even if you engage in no high- or moderate-risk behavior, it is still possible to develop breast cancer, which is why scheduling regular examinations is so important. The best approach to early detection incorporates both monthly self-examinations and annual mammography.

For more information about your TRICARE entitlement visit TriWest's Web site, www.triwest.com. You may also contact TriWest directly at 1-888-TRIWEST (874-9378). To learn more about your self-examination options and breast cancer itself, try visiting www.cancer.gov and www.breastcancer.org.