To Your Health: Breast cancer afflicts one in eight women
By Patrice Stephens October 9, 2012 2:56PM
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:16AM
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The color pink is everywhere in an effort to raise awareness and raise funds to help fight this disease.
Breast cancer afflicts one in eight women in the United States.
Each year, 30 million women are screened for it and more than 225,000 women are diagnosed with it. About 39,500 women will die of it.
This year, the American Cancer Society predicts there will be 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women. About 2,190 new cases are expected in men. In addition to invasive breast cancer, 63,300 new cases of in situ breast cancer, a non-invasive disease which is the earliest form of breast cancer, are expected to occur among women.
The total number of people living with breast cancer in the United States today is about 2.9 million, including women being treated and those who have completed treatment.
The major risk factors related to breast cancer include gender, increasing age, genetic risk, family history and personal history of breast cancer.
Simply being a woman is the main risk for developing breast cancer as 99 percent of patients diagnosed with breast cancer are female; 1 percent of all cases are diagnosed in men.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations) inherited from a parent.
Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have the disease. Having one first degree relative — mother, sister or daughter — with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk. Having two first degree relatives increases her risk about threefold. The exact risk is not known, but women with a family history of breast cancer in a father or brother also have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Altogether, less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease. This means that most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.
Regarding personal history of breast cancer, a woman with cancer in one breast has a three- to four-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in the same breast. This is different from a recurrence of the first cancer.
Early detection is the single most important thing we can do to beat breast cancer. So ask yourself the following questions:
1. If you are 40 or older, do you get a yearly mammogram?
2. Do you perform a monthly self-breast exam?
3. Do you have an annual clinical breast exam by your physician?
The American Cancer Society has recommended some screening guidelines to follow:
Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report change promptly to their health care providers. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
Clinical breast exam should be part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 and older.
Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at 40. The age at which screening should be stopped should be individualized by considering the potential risks and benefits of screening in the context of overall health status and longevity.
Women at increased risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests or having more frequent exams.
Stephens has worked at Advocate Christ Medical Center for 33 years, including the past 13 years as a breast nurse navigator, providing education, resources and support for patients dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.