October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we wanted to take a moment to share some information about some of the facts and risk factors involved in getting diagnosed.
- Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women.
- About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point if they live to be at least 85. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
- If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
- If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.
- Two-thirds of women with breast cancer are over 50, and most of the rest are between 39 and 49.
Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue, primarily in the milk ducts or glands. The cancer is still called and treated as breast cancer even if it is first discovered after the cells have travelled
to other areas of the body. In those cases, the cancer is referred to as metastatic or advanced breast cancer.
Breast cancer usually begins with the formation of a small, confined tumor (lump), or as calcium deposits and then spreads through channels within the breast to the lymph nodes or through the blood stream to
other organs. The tumor may grow and invade tissue around the breast, such as the skin or chest wall. Different types of breast cancer grow and spread at different rates — some take years to spread beyond the
breast while others grow and spread quickly.
Some lumps are benign (not cancerous), however these can be premalignant. The only safe way to distinguish between a benign lump and cancer is to have the tissue examined by a doctor through a biopsy.
Men can get breast cancer, too, but they account for just 1% of all breast cancer cases. Among women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer.
A woman’s exposure to estrogen and progesterone rises and falls during her lifetime. This is influenced by the age she starts menstruating and stops menstruating (menopause), the average length of her menstrual cycle, and her age at first childbirth.
A woman’s risk for breast cancer is increased if she starts menstruating before age 12 (less than 2 times the risk), has her first child after 30, stops menstruating after 55, or does not breast feed.
Current information about the effect of birth control pills and breast cancer risk is mixed. Some studies have found that the hormones in birth control pills probably do not increase breast cancer risk or
protect against breast cancer. However other studies suggest that the risk of breast cancer is increased in women who have taken birth
control pills recently, regardless of how long she has taken them.
Fortunately, breast cancer is very treatable if detected early. Localized tumors can usually be treated successfully before the cancer spreads; and in nine out of 10 cases, the woman will live at least
another five years. However, late recurrences of breast cancer are common.
Sources: WebMD and Healthfinders.gov