Women’s Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month graphic; Find the Cure

Breast Cancer Awareness month is observed in many countries in October. The purpose is to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women world-wide. There are over 1.3 million new cases worldwide per year and close to half a million deaths from this disease.

Early detection is the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When detected early and when adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance of a cure. If detected late, chances for cure diminish.

Here are some facts about breast cancer in the United States:

  • One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
  • Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.

Not all causes of breast cancer are known, but there are both genetic and environmental risk factors that have been identified.

Genetic Risk Factors

  • Gender:  Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  • Age:  Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  • Race:  Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than women of other races.
  • Family History and Genetic Factors:  If your mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.
  • Personal Health History:  If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before
  • Menstrual and Reproductive History:  Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Certain Genome Changes:  Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
  • Dense Breast Tissue:  Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Several states have passed laws requiring physicians to disclose to women if their mammogram indicates that they have dense breasts so that they are aware of this risk. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.

Environmental and Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Lack of Physical Activity:  A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Poor Diet:  A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Being Overweight or Obese:  Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.
  • Drinking Alcohol:  Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.
  • Radiation to the Chest:  Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):  Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

Despite the identified risk factors, 60-70% of people who develop breast cancer show none of the above risk factors. Others with risk factors may never develop breast cancer at all.

The key remains early detection. In this month of October, be aware of your risk factors and schedule your mammogram!

 


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