Overweight women have a higher risk of getting breast cancer after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer coming back in women diagnosed with the disease. Excess weight can make it harder to detect breast cancer early, when it's most treatable.
Research suggests another reason why heavier women might have a higher risk of breast cancer. It could be because obese women are less likely than thinner women to get regular mammograms. It's not clear why this happens. It might be that getting a mammogram is more troubling and uncomfortable for obese women. Hospital gowns, scales and other equipment may not be the right size for larger women, for example. The researchers also found that obese women are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer.
Screening mammograms save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible, but only when they're done as recommended. No matter your weight or size, if you're over 40 routine screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare plan. Ask your doctor’s office or mammography center to help you remember to schedule and get your mammograms when they're needed. Mark your calendar to remind you to schedule and get your mammogram. Ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be as easy as possible. Skipping regular mammograms is NOT an option.
If you're overweight, you might want to think about trying to lose weight. Besides breast cancer, excess weight affects your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and physical disabilities. It's true that losing weight becomes much harder as we grow older, but it can still be done with exercise and very careful changes in your diet. Be nice to yourself; don't punish yourself. The April 2007 breastcancer.org Ask-the-Expert Online Conference on Weight Management During and After Treatment has some good general tips on losing weight.