CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Dawn Bockert had the warning signs.

For probably two months, it hurt. I d go out on a run, it would bother me. I d put on a seat belt, it would bother me, she said.

The pain and discomfort persisted until she went to see her doctor, who sent her for a mammogram.

When they brought the doctor in, I knew what it was. I said, You can tell me. It s OK. I m ready, she said.

Ready for the diagnosis. At 38, the mother of two, had invasive breast cancer.

And today, Bockert believes she might know why.

I was 254 at my heaviest.

Bockert was obese. She carried that extra weight for years, she said. And she admits, her doctors warned her to get the weight off.

Yes, they were polite, she laughs.

Dr. Richard White is one of the leading breast cancer specialists in the region. He believes women need to know their weight is playing a factor in whether they could develop breast cancer.

It s absolutely real, he said. If we re not careful, soon, obesity, being overweight, will become the number one preventable cause of breast cancer in the United States.

How do you know if you re at risk? White says you need to know your BMI, or Body Mass Index. You can find it on your smart phone or computer by looking under BMI calculator. The calculator will ask for your height and weight, and then give you your BMI. If it s less than 25, you re good, White says. If it s over 25, White believes you re putting yourself at risk.

We now know if you control your weight, particularly after menopause, and if you exercise regularly a minimum of five days a week and drink less alcohol, you re less likely to get breast cancer, he said

Bockert got the message. She s lost almost 100 pounds doing exactly what the doctor ordered.

Her message for women who need to lose weight?

To do it for themselves. You ve got to, she urges.

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