October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And unfortunately, most of us have been affected in some way by this terrible disease. This month provides an opportunity to mourn those that we have lost, celebrate those who are surviving and educate those who are unaware. It is important to know the statistics, understand how breast cancer detection and treatment has evolved. Just as with many other diseases, early detection is key to prevention and successful treatments.
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.
Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence your breast cancer risk. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways—
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).
- Research shows that lack of nighttime sleep can be a risk factor.
- Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens) and chemicals that interfere with the normal function of the body.
- Limit exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans if not medically necessary.
- If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
- Breastfeed any children you may have, if possible.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may be at high risk for getting breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about more ways to lower your risk.
Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.
As noted above, early detection is key to better and more successful treatment. However, there are other opportunities to better understand issues surrounding breast cancer. Many women have questions about how early they should start being screened. There are many resources available to provide information, support, and services to help those with questions or who need extra help in the process. Here are some general guidelines:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
Women should also know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
Linked below are some trusted sources for any other information that you may need to help you educate yourself on screenings and early detection of breast cancers.
American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Screening and Early Detection Guidelines
National Cancer Institute Cancer Screening Guidelines
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines