On average, a woman dies from breast cancer every 13 minutes in the U.S. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, in fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is estimated that 246,660 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die every year. Men are not immune. In fact, an estimated 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 440 will die each year.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer forms in the body when the cell’s DNA becomes damaged. Breast cancer specifically occurs when malignant cells form in breast tissue. When cell growth goes awry and cells form where or when they shouldn’t, a mass of tissue is the result. This mass is commonly referred to as a lump or a tumor. A malignant tumor is cancerous and can metastasize throughout the entire body if left untreated.
Genetic – Genetic risk factors cannot be changed. Breast cancer occurs 100 times more frequently in women than in men; women over the age of 55 are diagnosed two-thirds more than younger women; you are more likely to develop breast cancer if a family member has had it; women whose first menstruation occurred before age 12 are at a higher risk of breast cancer; women who’ve had children at an older age are also at higher risk; genetic mutations cause breast cancer; and having dense breast tissue puts you at higher risk for concealed lumps.
Environmental –A healthy lifestyle is vital to prevent breast cancer and environmental factors play a large role. Lack of physical activity; poor diet; being overweight or obese; frequent alcohol consumption; radiation therapy before age 30; and taking Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for menopause are avoidable environmental risk factors associated with breast cancer.
The Importance of Early Detection
Although breast cancer can’t be prevented, there are steps that can be taken to discover it early. Breast self-exams, mammograms, and clinical exams help with early detection. These steps are particularly important if you have dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is hereditary and you’re six times more likely to receive a breast cancer diagnosis if you have dense breasts.
The male breast cancer mortality rate is higher than in women because treatment is often delayed. Men might feel a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola, but might pass it off as something other than breast cancer due to stigma. Of the men diagnosed with breast cancer, the most common form is Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), which refers to cells in or around the ducts that invade nearby tissue. Inflammatory breast cancer, or Paget disease, is not usually the issue in the male population.
Women and men should regularly feel their breasts for lumps or anything out of the ordinary. Survival rates for both men and women are on par with early detection and treatment.
Breast cancer treatment is based on stage, type and personal history. Surgery is the most common treatment, often with a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy. Standard treatment exists, as well as clinical trials.
There is good news in all of this: over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today. Learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and schedule your annual mammogram from Southwest OB/GYNin Houston.