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Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among American women (the first is lung cancer). Early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease, other than adopting a healthier lifestyle. According to the American Cancer Society, women diagnosed with breast cancer that has not spread outside the breast have a higher survival rate. Steady declines in breast cancer mortality among women since 1990 have been attributed to a combination of early detection and improvements in treatment. From 2004 to 2008, death rates among women under 50 with breast cancer decreased by 3.1 percent per year and in women over 50 by 2.1 percent each year.
- In the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
- In 2012, an estimated 226,870 women and 2,190 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S.
- Breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 39,510 women and 410 men in the U.S. this year.
- In Texas, an estimated 16,241 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2012, resulting in 2,894 deaths.
- Age: Approximately two-thirds of breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
- Family History: Women with immediate family members (grandmother, mother, or sister) who have had breast cancer are at a greater risk of developing the disease. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing may help determine risk.
- Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Symptoms and Signs
The signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women, and some women show no signs at all. If any of the following symptoms or signs are present, women are encouraged to consult their physician immediately for proper testing:
- A lump in the breast
- Change in breast size or shape
- Change in color of nipple or breast
- Dimpled skin near the breast
- A lump under the arm
- New pain in one spot
- Nipple retraction
- Nipple discharge
- Irritation on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple
Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but there are steps women can take to decrease their risk and/or improve early detection of the disease.
- Self-Exams: Women should begin monthly breast self-exams in their 20s. Any changes in their breasts should be reported to a physician immediately.
- Clinical Breast Exams: The American Cancer Society recommends clinical breast exams for women in their 20s and 30s every three years, and annual mammograms for women over 40.
- Mammograms can detect breast cancer at an early, more treatable stage. Mammograms identify 80 to 90 percent of breast cancer cases in women with no evident symptoms.
- Regular exercise may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Exercise lowers estrogen and insulin levels, fights obesity, and may prevent tumors from developing.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol. Studies show that drinking alcohol may raise the risk of breast cancer.
- Since obesity can further complicate breast cancer, maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition.
- Higher Risk
- Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physicians. If genetic tests indicate a woman is BRCA-positive, there are a number of risk reduction strategies to discuss with her physician.
Anyone with breast cancer should consult with a medical oncologist to determine their specific treatment needs. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Department of State Health Services