RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Dr. Catherine Hendrickson, the director of Focus 50 Plus, says women are no longer considered elderly in their 60’s. The U.S. Census Bureau says the average life expectancy for a woman in this country ranges from 73 to 80 years old.
But time is the enemy when it comes to diseases that can cut your life short like breast cancer.
“As women age the risk for developing breast cancer increases," said Dr. Hendrickson.
Focus 50 Plus is a wellness program with Senior Connections that teaches women 50 and older in the Richmond area how to reduce that risk.
I asked her what women should know about their breast health as time passes.
You’ve heard the recommendation to begin having your annual mammograms at age 40.
But some women don’t follow that advice.
Dr. Hendrickson says the increased risk after 50 makes the screening a must. “So that means we need to increase the vigilance having our annual mammogram whether your 50, 55 or 60," said Hendrickson.
Additionally, your breasts become fattier after 50, so mammograms can better detect cancer. Also, don’t forget your annual clinical exam and monthly breast self exam
A woman’s metabolism slows down as she gets older, so eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight is critical since studies are finding a link between being overweight and breast cancer.
Also, staying active is one way to achieve that. Studies suggest exercising three to four hours per week can reduce your disease risk by about 20%.
Dr. Hendrickson says mammograms are important even after age 70, but talk about this with your doctor. In fact she says it could add a few more years to your life like the local woman who was diagnosed at age 90.
“She did have surgery and is 94 now and she’s a survivor," said Hendrickson.
If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer late in life, Dr. Hendrickson says you’ll want to talk with your doctor about your options.
It’s also important to learn your family health history regarding breast cancer. Ask your doctor if you need any tests in addition to a mammogram and how frequently you should be screened. And contact them right away if you notice any changes in your breasts.