Quick Facts about Breast Cancer
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we compiled some quick facts about the disease. It’s important to be aware of your risk, recommended monitoring guidelines, symptoms to look out for, and ways to decrease your risk. As always, consult with your physician for personalized medical advice. For further reading, check out the Resources area below.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease where abnormal cells in the breast grow out of control and form tumors. These tumors can spread throughout the body in nearby lymph nodes or other organs.
How Common is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. In 2020, about 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer globally and it caused 685,000 deaths. Annually in the United States, about 240,000 women and 2,100 men are diagnosed with breast cancer, with 42,000 women and 500 men dying each year from it.
What Increases Risk of Breast Cancer?
There are various factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer. As only 0.5-1% of breast cancers occur in men, simply being a female is a major breast cancer risk factor.
There are also a few genetic mutations that increase your risk of breast cancer, the most dominant ones being BRCA1, BRCA2, and PAL-B. Genetics tests are available if you and your doctor decide you want to see if you have one of these genetic mutations.
Other factors include: reproductive history (e.g., age of menarche and age of first pregnancy), family history of breast cancer, obesity, history of radiation exposure, tobacco and alcohol use, age, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
Although many factors are out of your control (e.g., family history and age), there are some factors that you can influence. With most diseases, it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes being physically active, avoiding tobacco products, keeping a healthy weight, and only drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all.
It is also important to consult with your doctor about your individual risk and plan. For example, if your risk is higher than average, it may be necessary to start screening for breast cancer sooner/more frequently.
What Are Common Symptoms?
There are various symptoms of breast cancer to look out for. It is important to know how your breasts look and feel throughout the month so you notice when there are any changes. Symptoms can include:
- change in appearance in the nipple and/or areola
- abnormal or bloody fluid from the nipple
- change in breast size, shape, or appearance
- a lump in the breast
- dimpling, redness, or other changes in the skin of the breast
Because many people will not experience any symptoms when the cancer is still early, screenings are crucial for early detection.
What Are The Screening Options & Recommendations?
There different types of breast cancer screenings. First and foremost, monthly self-exams are typically recommended so you can become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, as well as notice if there are any changes.
A Mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that 50-74 year old women who are at average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every two years.
A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) takes images of the barest using magnets and radio waves. Doctors sometimes use MRIs along with mammograms for those at a higher risk of breast cancer.
How is Breast Cancer Treated?
Treatment for breast cancer varies and can depend on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. Multiple treatment options may also be combined to minimize the chances of the cancer coming back. These treatment options include:
- radiation therapy
- hormonal therapy
- biological therapy
If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, a team of doctors will become involved. This may include a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a surgeon, and more.
“Breast Cancer.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 12 July 2023, www.who.int/news-room/fact-
“Basic Information About Breast Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 25 July 2023, www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/index.htm.
We want you to be well and to live your best life. The content in this blog is provided for the purposes to educate and entertain you: our very important reader. It is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice from a trained healthcare professional.
If you have a medical condition or are under the care of a medical provider, please always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before undertaking a new health care regimen. To that point, never disregard medical advice or delay treatment for a medical condition because of something you read on this site.
Listen to your care providers as they know you and your condition best. Thank you for reading!
The Team at BSDI