Breast Cancer Facts
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that begins in the breast. A malignant tumor can invade surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. Breast Cancer is predominantly a disease among woman and is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S. A small number of men also develop breast cancer.
Mammography is the single most effective method of early detection, since it can identify cancer several years before physical symptoms develop. In accordance with the revised 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Screening Guidelines, early detection is possible through mammograms beginning at the age of 50, or earlier if family history puts one at increased risk, or as decided by the physician in consultation with the patient. After age 50, mammograms are recommended every two years or as advised by the women's physician.
Women should know their breasts and report changes of size, symmetry, or skin appearance to their doctor. Symptoms that may indicate breast cancer are:
- Lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Nipple discharge (other than milk)
- Nipple turning inward
- Change in the color or feel of the skin on or near the breast or underarm area
Those at Risk
It is not yet known exactly what causes breast cancer, but it is known that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. There are factors you have no control over:
- Gender - Breast Cancer is 100 times more common in women than men.
- Family History - While 70 to 80 percent of the women who get breast cancer do not have a family history, having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer about doubles a woman's risk.
- Genetic Risk Factors - Women with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes have up to an 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer during their lifetimes.
- Previous radiation - Women who have had radiation treatment to the chest area (as treatment for another cancer) earlier in life have a greatly increased risk of breast cancer.
There are also risk factors you can control:
- Lactation - Breast feeding lowers a woman's risk.
- Woman's Age with First Child - Having your first child before age 30 can lower your risk.
- Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy - Postmenopausal women who take combined estrogen and progesterone hormone therapy have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Minimize Alcohol Intake - Women who drink two to five drinks per day have about one and one half times greater risk of breast cancer than women who do not drink.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight - The link between weight and breast cancer is complex but there is an increased risk of breast cancer for those who are overweight or obese.
The percentage of female breast cancer cases diagnosed at an early, more treatable stage, in Florida has increased 25% in the past 20 years. Reported screening rates were higher among Floridians but are now similar to screening rates reported nationally.
Breast cancer is classified by stages I-IV which are characterized by local, regional (which may include a few auxillary lymph nodes), or distant disease. Treatment is more successful when breast cancer is discovered in the early stages.
The breast cancer five-year survival rate is 98% for localized disease, 84% for regional disease, and 27% for distant disease. Florida CHARTS reports 2,599 women died of breast cancer in 2007.
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