As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins this week, we’ll start seeing pink awareness efforts everywhere. Pink products will line the shelves at stores, awareness and fundraising ads will showcase celebrities wearing pink ribbons, and high school, collegiate, and even professional athletes will adorn their uniforms with pink, some even articulating a specific person or family member affected by breast cancer for whom they’re dedicating their athletic efforts.
Raising awareness is a great thing. Throughout the year I’m asked to speak to community groups about cancer prevention, early detection, and the impact of heredity on cancer risk. The number of requests always escalates sharply in October. These programs provide an opportunity to help educate the public on the health impact of breast cancer, the importance of taking personal responsibility for health, and the new research studies that ultimately affect clinical practice.
- Breast cancer is a significant public health problem. About 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women as well as 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ. And 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women with 40,610 deaths; lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women.
- Death rates from breast cancer dropped from 1989–2007. Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have remained steady in women 50 years or age or younger, but have continued to decrease in older women.
- More than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States.
Risk factors for breast cancer include being a woman and getting older. Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, melanoma, or pancreatic cancer may be at increased risk—especially women with a family member diagnosed before 50 years of age. Women cannot change their family history. However, they should make an effort to know that family history and talk with their healthcare providers about whether they should change their screening plans or seek evaluation with a credentialed genetics provider for possible genetic testing. Genetic testing and identification of hereditary risk combined with increased surveillance and risk reducing surgery can be lifesaving.
Women can do some things to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Lifestyle factors should not be ignored.
- Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Women who have two to three drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk compared to women who don’t drink alcohol. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who drink have no more than one drink a day.
- Being overweight after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Following menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue instead of the ovaries. Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase the risk of breast cancer. Women who are overweight tend to have higher blood insulin levels, which have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. Women should try to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, especially after menopause. Exactly how physical activity might reduce breast cancer risk isn’t clear, but it may be because of its effects on body weight, inflammation, hormones, and energy balance. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
All women need to be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel—any change, no matter how trivial it seems, deserves further evaluation by a healthcare professional. Beginning at age 40, women of average risk need an annual mammogram. Mammograms should continue annually, as long as a woman has at least five years of life expectancy. The decrease in breast cancer deaths and increased number of cases of the highly treatable carcinoma in situ of the breast is directly related to regular mammography use that can detect a lump long before it would be palpable.
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Genetics and Breast Cancer
Research continues to better understand the complex interaction between genes and environment in the development of breast cancer. A large, long-term study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is currently being conducted with the goal of understanding the causes of breast cancer. The Sister Study enrolled 50,000 women who have sisters with a diagnosis of breast cancer and is currently following these families for at least 10 years. A secondary study, the Two Sister Study, examines women with breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, with a sister, and their parents to further characterize possible causes of early-onset breast cancers. It also aims to provide valuable information about long-term survivors of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a public health concern that’s a year-round issue, but it’s good to draw more attention to the issue from time to time. I’m glad to do a few extra educational programs in October, because women need to know that breast cancer is treatable when detected early, especially when based on the 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Mammography can be an effective screening tool, and women need to engage in regular screenings. They need to understand their risks and talk to their provider about an appropriate screening protocol. Some families will benefit immensely from genetic testing. All women can take some control of their risk by embracing a healthier lifestyle—it can make a difference. Much of the progress in breast cancer is because of ongoing research. Thanks should be given to all of the women who have participated in this research. Thank you to our athletes, celebrities, and everyone else who will make a little extra effort this October to raise awareness about breast cancer.
All Breast Cancer Articles
Breast Cancer Basics
- What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer
- When Breast Cancer Spreads
- Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
- A Breast Cancer Glossary
- Breast Cancer Resources You Can Trust
- Ways to Screen for Breast Cancer
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Rare and Harder to Treat
- The Latest in Breast Cancer Research
- Does Breast Cancer Hurt?
- Breast Cancer Stages
- Breast Cancer in Men
- What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer?
- New Research Into Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Paget’s Disease and Breast Cancer
- 12 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked
- Elizabeth Edwards Succumbs to Breast Cancer
- Drugs That Block Estrogen in Breast Cancer Patients May Also Ward Off Lung Cancer
- Smoking Increases Risk of Breast Cancer
- Experts Call Breast Implant Cancer Risk Minimal
- No Need to Remove Lymph Nodes in Some Early Stage Breast Cancer
- FDA Okays 3-D Mammography Device
- Having Lots of Children May Up Risk of Aggressive Breast Cancer
- Early Chemical Exposures May Affect Breast Health: Report
- Are Coffee Drinkers Less Prone to Aggressive Breast Cancer?
- Sheryl Crow’s After-Cancer Diet
- Sheryl Crow’s Roma Tomato Soup with Truffle Oil
- Longest Trial Ever Confirms Mammograms’ Benefits
- FDA Panel Rejects Avastin for Breast Cancer
- Largest Ob/Gyn Group Backs Annual Mammograms in 40s
- Tamoxifen Wards Off Breast Cancer’s Return for More Than a Decade
- Breast Cancer Drug Raises Risk of Heart Problems in Older Women
- Annual Breast Exams, Mammograms Still Key to Detecting Breast Cancer
- NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reveals Breast Cancer Diagnosis On Air
- More Mammograms Equal More Mastectomies
- Breast Cancer Rates Jump Worldwide
- Wanda Sykes Takes a Bold Approach to Beat Breast Cancer
- Barbara Jo Kirshbaum: The Million-Dollar Breast Cancer Walker
- Poorer Women More Likely to Die From Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Appears Less Deadly for Men Than Women
- RenÃ© Syler: Why I ‘Played Offense’ Against Breast Cancer
- Drug Combo Might Fight Aggressive Breast Cancer More Safely
- Genetic Profiling Adds New Dimension to Breast Cancer Treatment
- Woman Describes How Breast Cancer Changed Her Life
- Is Giuliana Rancic’s Breast Cancer Linked to IVF Fertility Treatments?
- Less Frequent Mammograms May Lower False-Positive Results
- Breast Radiation After Lumpectomy Saves Lives
- Breast Cancer Risk May Rise With High Hormone Levels
- Meet Cathy S.: Mom, Wife, and Breast Cancer Survivor â?? at 33
- Breast Reconstruction Boosts Women’s Emotional Well-Being
- Think Pink: How a Daughter’s Love Became a Breast Cancer Movement
- Not All Women at Higher Risk in Families Carrying Breast Cancer Gene
- Is Alcohol Safe for Women?
- Common Breast Cancer Gene Test May Be Flawed
- Advances in Breast Cancer Care May Not Be Reaching Older Women
- Vaccine to Treat Breast, Ovarian Cancers Shows Promise
- Drinking Risky for Women With Family History of Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Chemo Tied to Memory Troubles
- New Canadian Guidelines Also Support No Routine Mammograms Until 50
- Study Supports Mammograms for Women in Their Forties
- Mammograms Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Death by Half, Study Finds
- Targeted Radiation May Not Be Better for Breast Cancer
- IOM Lists Breast Cancer Risks in Environment
- Starchy Foods May Boost Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence
- Few Women Get Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy
- British Study Suggests Mammograms Do More Harm Than Good
- Giuliana Rancic: ‘Very Grateful’ After Double Mastectomy
- Former Miss Venezuela Loses Battle With Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Radiation Linked to Raised Heart Risk
- Giuliana Rancic on Breast Cancer Battle: It’s Made Me More Religious
- Does Deodorant Ingredient Affect Breast Cancer Risk?
- Many Breast Cancer Patients Uninformed About Options
- Study Hints That Statins Might Fight Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Before 50 Linked to More Distress
- New Genetic Clues to Breast Cancer?
- Komen Group Reverses Planned Parenthood Funding Cut
- Soy Supplements May Not Shield Against Breast Cancer
- Komen Backlash Continues: Can the Foundation Recover?
- Risk of Death From Certain Breast Cancers May Rise With Age
- Ray Romano on Wife’s Breast Cancer Battle: ‘We Dodged a Bullet’
- Psychotherapy May Ease Hot Flashes After Breast Cancer
- Mammograms Can Save Lives of Women in Their 40s
- Researchers Spot New Gene Mutation Linked to Breast Cancer
- ‘Chemo Brain’ May Linger 20 Years After Breast Cancer Treatment
- Estrogen-Only Therapy May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
- Cadmium in Diet May Increase Breast Cancer Risk
- Pregnancy Safe for Women With Estrogen-Sensitive Breast Cancer
- Bridging Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Mortality
- Obese Women at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence
- Even a Little Drinking May Raise Breast Cancer Risk
- Long-Term Estrogen Therapy Does Up Breast Cancer Risk
- Veggies Like Broccoli, Cabbage May Help Fight Breast Cancer
- Ultrasound, MRI Might Spot Cancer in Dense Breast Tissue
- Depo-Provera Birth Control Might Raise Breast Cancer Risk
- Finding Breast Cancer in a Drop of Blood
- Exercise May Boost Breast Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life
- Can Heavy Metal in Foods, Cosmetics Spur Breast Cancer Spread?
- Can Blood Test Predict Breast Cancer Risk?
- For Breast Cancer Care, Radiation of Whole Breast May Be Best
- Dying Mom Pleads on YouTube for Early Release of Cancer Drug
- Blood Test Could Predict Breast Cancer Years Earlier
- Many Breast Cancer Patients in Their 40s Aren’t ‘High-Risk’
- Working Nights Raises Risk for Breast Cancer
- Early Radiation Therapy Hikes Risk for Breast Cancer
- Paclitaxel Bests New Drugs in Breast Cancer
- Maura Tierney Debunks Chemotherapy Myths
- High-Carb Diets Might Raise Breast Cancer Risk
- Why Breast Cancer Is Killing More African-American Women
- BMJ OpEd Says Komen Ads False
- Older Women Who Get Radiation Therapy See Lower Mastectomy Risk
- Cancer in Dense Breasts No More Deadly
- Judy Blume Treated for Breast Cancer
- BRCA Carriers at Extra Risk from Radiation
- World’s Strongest Woman Fights Breast Cancer With Exercise
- Breast Cancer Fears Keep Women From Self-Exams
- Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Explains Options
- A Life With Breast Cancer, in Photos
- Jewel Spotlights Breast Reconstruction for Cancer Survivors
- What’s Your Question for Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services?
- Redefining Beauty After Breast Cancer
- Sharon Osbourne’s Double Mastectomy Was a ‘No-Brainer’
- Black Women More Likely to Die From Breast Cancer
- Miss America Contestant to Have a Double Mastectomy
- Most Women Who Choose Double Mastectomy Don’t Need To
- Questions and Answers About Preventive Double Mastectomy
- Dense Breasts Need More Than Mammograms
- Preventive Mastectomy Is Irreversible, Should Be Weighed Carefully
- Are Too Many Women Having Unnecessary Mastectomies?
- Intense Chemo Bests Standard in Breast Cancer
- Vitamin D Tied to Breast Cancer Outcome
- Squeezing Breast Cancer Cells May Stop Cancer Growth
- The Breast Cancer Gene: Is It Better to Know You Have It or Not?
- Beauty and the Breast: Miss America Contestant Chooses Her Health Over Her Breasts
- Blood Test Might Spot High-Risk Breast Cancer Genes
- Breast Cancer Gene May Be Tied to Early Menopause
- Less-Frequent Mammogram Testing Benefits Older Women
- Breast Cancer Prevention Vastly Underfunded, Report Finds
- Breast Reconstruction Using Women’s Own Tissue Appears Safe
- Throughout the World, Physicians Are Split on Mammography Guidelines
- Breast Cancer Radiation Has Long-Term Heart Effects: Study
- High-Fat Dairy Diet Linked to Breast Cancer Recurrence
- More Evidence Shows Hormone Therapy May Increase Breast Cancer Risk
- Breast Cancer Death Rates Higher for Black Women
- Moderate Drinking May Not Affect Breast Cancer Survival: Study
- Omega-3s May Keep Aggressive Breast Cancer at Bay
- Drugs Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk for Some, Task Force Finds
- Insurance Status Tied to Breast Cancer Treatment
- Breast Cancer Prevention May Come in a Pill
- Implants May Delay Breast Cancer Detection, Raise Death Risk
- Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Decision: Weighing the Benefits and Risks
- Coverage Gaps Can Hamper Access to Some Breast Cancer Screening, Care
- Long-Term Tamoxifen Gains More Support
- For-Profit Hospitals Go for Pricier Breast Radiation Option
- BRCA Testing Vastly Underused, Researchers Say
- Tamoxifen: Gene Test May Predict Benefit
- Breast Cancer Biomarker Helps Personalize Treatment, Study Finds
- Can Long-Term Night Work Raise Breast Cancer Risk?
- EPO Eases Intensive Chemo in Breast Cancer
- New Clues to Why Black Women Fare Worse Against Breast Cancer
- Can Some Women Safely Skip Breast Surgery?
- The ‘C’ Word Affects DCIS Treatment Choice
- Most Women Don’t Understand Their Breast Cancer Risk: Survey
- U.S. Faces Cancer-Care Crisis, Report Suggests
- Talking to Your Daughters About Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Clusters and Environmental Factors
- True Love After Breast Cancer
- Double Mastectomies May Not Increase Life Expectancy, Study Says
- BROCA: Casting a Wider Net in Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
- Many Women Suffer Persistent Pain After Mastectomy
- FDA Halts Genetic Testing Service 23andMe
- Breast-Density Changes May Be Tied to Cancer Risk: Study
- Later Mammograms May Mean Missed or Delayed Diagnoses
- New Treatment for Aggressive Breast Cancer Shows Some Promise
- Tomatoes Might Fight Breast Cancer: Study
- Many Women Still Have Pain One Year After Breast Cancer Surgery
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer
- Ways to Screen for Breast Cancer
- Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
- When Should Screening Mammograms Begin?
- Ultrasound for Breast Cancer Detection
- MRI for Breast Cancer Detection
- Ductography for Breast Cancer Detection
- What to Expect From a Breast Cancer Biopsy
- Breast Exams for Breast Cancer Detection
- How Oncologists Evaluate Breast Tumors
- MRI’s New Role After Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- A Better Outlook for Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Mammography for Breast Cancer Detection
- Is Digital Mammography Right for You?
- Routine Mammography May Lead to Overdiagnosis
- False-Positive Mammogram Results May Turn Out Not to Be
- Here Are the Women Who Need Mammograms in Their 40s
- Mammograms Beat Thermography for Breast Cancer Detection
- Breast Cancer at 23
- Some Screens Miss Spread of Breast Cancer
- Digital Beats Film Mammography at Spotting Breast Cancer
- More Data Refute Breast Cancer Tie to Insulin
- 3-D Mammograms Might Be Safer, More Accurate
- More Cancers May Be Missed Under Latest Mammogram Guidelines
- Chest CT Scans May Increase Breast Cancer Risk
- 3-D Imaging Boosts Breast Cancer Detection
- 1 in 4 Breast Cancer Diagnoses May Spur PTSD
- False-Positive Mammograms Can Cause Long-term Harm, Study Finds
- Scientists Create Breast Cancer Survival Predictor
- Susan G. Komen Cuts Number of Breast Cancer Walks
- The Supreme Court’s Gene Patent Ban: Will It Hurt Research?
- Contradictory Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines: An Unexpected Benefit
- Women Vets May Need More Access to Breast Cancer Services
- Breast Cancer’s Racial Gap
Breast Cancer Prevention
- 6 Ways to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk
- Lowering Your Risk for Breast CancerTreatment
- The Alcohol-Breast Cancer Connection
- Weight Gain and Breast Cancer
- Chemical Exposure and Breast Cancer Risk
- Eating for Breast Cancer Prevention
- Breast Cancer Risk and Hormone Therapy
- Breast Cancer Prevention mdash; If You’re at High Risk
- Potential Breast Cancer Causes
- Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Research: Prevention and Early Detection
- Guidelines Delay Start of Mammograms to Age 50, Then Every Other Year
- False-Positive Mammogram Results
- Preventing Breast Cancer With Drug Therapy
- Surgery to Prevent Breast Cancer
- Can Cosmetics Cause Breast Cancer?
- Teen Drinking May Boost Odds of Precancerous Breast Changes
- AMA Bucks Federal Task Force on Mammography
- Daily Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk
- U.S. Mammography Rates Drop Following Task Force Recommendations
- What Your Breast Size Says About Your Cancer Risk
- Excess Pounds Raise Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence, Death
- Breast Cancer Screening Does Save Lives
- Young Women Skip Mammograms After Task Force Recommendation
- Gene Study Yields New Clues to Breast Cancer
- Eat Orange, Red, or Yellow Food to Prevent Breast Cancer
- Statins May Slow Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Waiting to Have Kids Reduces Aggressive Breast Cancer Risk
- Just How Might Exercise Lower Breast Cancer Risk?
- Exercise Ups ‘Good’ Estrogen, Cuts Breast Cancer Odds
- Angelina Jolie’s Revelation: ‘I Had a Double Mastectomy’
- Personalized Breast Cancer Prevention Plans Can Cut Risk in Half
- Can Eating Peanut Butter Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Later Life?
- FDA Approves First ‘Pre-Surgical’ Drug for Breast Cancer
- Daily Walk May Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk
- Just Keep On Dancing: Breast Cancer After the Pink Flood
Breast Cancer Treatment
- Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
- How Radiation Therapy Fights Breast Cancer
- How Chemotherapy Fights Breast Cancer
- Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy: Is It Right for You?
- Alternative Breast Cancer Treatments: Do They Work?
- Non-Surgical Breast Cancer Treatments
- What to Expect From Breast Cancer Surgery
- The Latest Breast Cancer Treatments
- Breast Cancer Chemotherapy: How It Affects Your Body
- Finding a Cure for Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Treatment: Stage III
- Managing Treatment Side Effects
- How Hormone Therapy Fights Breast Cancer
- Surgical Options for Breast Cancer
- Clinical Trials for Metastatic Breast Cancer
- The Course of Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment
- FDA Revokes Approval of Avastin for Breast Cancer
- New Tests Might Better Predict Breast Cancer’s Return
- Avastin Boosted Survival for Type of Aggressive Breast Cancer
- Side Effects Cause Many Older Women to Drop Breast Cancer Drugs
- Drug Duo May Help Fight Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer
- Avastin May Be Helpful Before Breast Cancer Surgery
- Early Study Hints That Breast Cancer Vaccine Might Work
- Speedier OKs in Sight for Cancer Drugs?
- Avastin’s Breast Cancer Effect Modest ‘At Best’
- CyberKnife Offers Minimally-Invasive Breast Cancer Treatment Option
- Breast Cancer Drugs: Many Play, Few Will Win
- Breast Cancer Drug May Harm the Heart More Than Thought
- Lying Prone for Radiation Best for Breast Treatment
- Breast-Feeding Might Cut Risk for Tough-to-Treat Breast Cancer
- Minority Women, Families Receive Different Levels of Cancer Care
- 10 Years of Tamoxifen Better Than 5
- 10 Years on Tamoxifen: What Doctors and Breast Cancer Patients Think
- Avastin Won’t Extend Breast Cancer Survival
- Early Treatment Helps Young Breast Cancer Patients
- Medical Marijuana: Voodoo or Legitimate Therapeutic Choice?
- FDA OKs Genentech Breast Cancer Drug
- Annual Mammography Not Needed
- Quick Surgery Best for Breast Cancer in the Young
- Most Docs OK With Medical Marijuana: Survey
- Low Breast-Feeding Rate Linked to Early Deaths, Illnesses: Study
- Mammograms Don’t Reduce Cancer Deaths, Study Finds
- Women at High Breast Cancer Risk Should Consider Preventive Drugs: Experts
- FDA Panel Backs Wider Use of Drug to Treat Early Stage Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Management
- Coping With a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Exercise During Breast Cancer Recovery
- Managing Breast Cancer Pain
- Nutrition for Breast Cancer Treatment
- Breast Cancer and Your Tastebuds
- Living Life After Breast Cancer Treatment
- Breast Cancer and Fertility
- Keeping Your Self-Esteem After a Mastectomy
- Choosing the Right Mastectomy Bra
- Mastectomy Swimwear: Finding the Right Suit
- Sex After Breast Cancer
- Living Well With Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Support Groups for Metastatic Breast Cancer
- The Emotional Toll of Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Managing Bone Pain in Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Coping With the Cost of Breast Cancer
- Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Surgery
- Cold Caps May Prevent Chemotherapy Hair Loss
- Can Medical Marijuana Ease the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?
- Metastatic Breast Cancer: Nine Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Suzanne Somers and the Future of Breast Reconstruction
- Breast Cancer Survivor Wins Right to Swim Topless
- Family Helps Dr. Laura Berman Fight Cancer and Embrace Baldness
- Kellie Pickler: Bald and Beautiful for a Friend With Cancer
- Breast-Cancer Awareness: Organizations That Support Women and Families Through Cancer
- ‘Hydrate, Gyrate, Masticate’: A Professional Foodie’s Guide to Eating Well for Breast Cancer Recovery
- Breast Exams DO Make a Difference
Breast Cancer Caregiving
- Services to Consider
- Breast Cancer Support Groups
- Breast Cancer and Living Wills
- Breast Cancer Caregiving at a Distance
- Male Partners of Breast Cancer Patients May Suffer Depression
- When Partner Has Breast Cancer, Men Find Their Own Ways to Cope
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12 Articles About Breast Health and Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Resources Roundup
In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. And while it’s rare, an estimated 2,470 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The fact is, nobody is immune from the effects of breast cancer. And even if you’re lucky enough to never experience breast cancer yourself, chances are within your lifetime, you’ll know someone who has.
This selection of articles spans all aspects of breast health and breast cancer care, from the importance of mammograms to precision cancer treatments to actual patient stories. We’re hoping this helps you navigate your journey, no matter what that journey might be.
Breast Cancer Treatment + Patient Stories
A Look at Common and Uncommon Types of Breast Cancer
Did you know there are many different types of breast cancer? From pre-cancerous breast disease to breast cancer in men, different types of cancer impact your treatment options and outcomes. Making sense of the words and terms associated with a cancer diagnosis can help you to be a more informed patient. Here’s a look at the common – and not so common – types of breast cancer. Read the full article.
A Better Way to Breast Cancer Care – Precision Medicine
Precision medicine helps physicians more accurately predict which types of treatments will work for different people, by considering individual genes, environmental and lifestyle differences. This article explains how research co-authored by Northwestern Medicine scientist Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, uses precision medicine to help clinicians choose effective therapies for patients with metastatic breast cancer. Read the full article.
Quick Dose: What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
A Northwestern Medicine physician gives a short overview of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive type of cancer. It is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen, red or inflamed, and accounts for one to five percent of all breast cancer cases diagnosed in the United States. Read the full article.
Living Life After Breast Cancer – Your Journey After Treatment
Today, there are more breast cancer survivors in the United States than any other group of cancer survivors: three million, to be exact. This means that breast cancer has probably touched the lives of you or a couple people you know. And it also means that more and more people are benefiting from early detection and advances in treatment. These days, breast cancer survivors often live long, satisfying, happy lives. Here are a few tips for embracing your new normal and inspiring others along the way. Read the full article.
How Exercise Might Improve Memory in Breast Cancer Survivors
A new study from Northwestern Medicine found that physical activity is related to improved subjective memory in breast cancer survivors, who often experience memory problems. Subjective memory is an individual’s perception of memory. Read the full article.
Patient Story: Battling Back to Her Babies – Kathleen’s Treatment Plan
January 19, 2015, was a lot of things for Kathleen. It was her 35th birthday. It was the day she gave birth to twins, Shea and Sean, her “miracle babies,” at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital after years of intense fertility treatments. And it was the day before she learned she had stage 2 breast cancer. January 19 was her highest of highs, before life felt like it was falling apart. Read Kathleen’s story.
Lifelong Breast Health
5 Ways to Navigate Breast Health
Many women might only think about their breast health after hearing news of a breast cancer diagnosis. But the truth is, early detection is key to catching breast cancer or precancerous conditions when they’re most treatable. Here are five things you should know about breast health. Read the full article.
Why Choose 3-D Mammography?
All women should begin yearly mammogram screenings at age 40 and continue for as long as they’re in good health. For some women, certain factors increase the risk for developing breast cancer, and additional screening measures may be necessary. When it comes to mammography options, the choice — and detection — is clear: 3-D mammography improves breast cancer prevention for those who need it most. Read the full article.
How to Give Yourself a Breast Exam – Infographic
You are the best judge of what’s “normal” when it comes to your own body. Monthly breast self-exams can keep you familiar with the look and feel of your breasts, making it easier to identify and share any changes with your primary care provider. This guide explains the best way to give yourself a monthly breast exam. View infographic.
General Cancer Resources
Can Certain Foods Help Fight Cancer?
Foods that may reduce the risk for developing cancer are often referred to as “cancer-fighting foods.” These foods may contain phytochemicals that protect cells against damage from harmful compounds that are produced by the body and can be found in your food and environment. Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital dietitians explain the truth behind these claims. Read the full article.
3 Ways Wellness Can Help You Cope With Cancer
A cancer diagnosis is never easy. Patients, friends and family will react in individual ways and may turn to different sources of comfort and support. Find out how the community of a wellness center can offer structure and support in your journey. Read the full article.
A Guide to Talking to Your Child About Cancer
A cancer diagnosis affects not just the person with the diagnosis, but everyone in that person’s life, including and maybe even especially, children. Talking to kids about cancer is tricky, and it’s normal for every parent to have their own approach. If you’re faced with having to talk to your child about cancer, prepare and practice what you want to say, and adhere to the essential goal of telling the truth in a way your child can understand. Read the full article.
The Best (and Worst) Ways to Support a Friend With Cancer
Finding out a loved one has cancer can be distressing, sad, even devastating. It can leave you wondering what you can do to help. Remember that there’s no rule book when it comes to supporting your friend through cancer. Consider your unique relationship and try to help in ways that your friend will understand and appreciate. Read the full article
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. (To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see What Is Cancer?)
Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too.
It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). Non-cancerous breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast. They are not life threatening, but some types of benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a health care professional to determine if it is benign or malignant (cancer) and if it might affect your future cancer risk. See Non-cancerous Breast Conditions to learn more.
Where breast cancer starts
Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast.
- Most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers)
- Some start in the glands that make breast milk (lobular cancers)
- There are also other types of breast cancer that are less common like phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma
- A small number of cancers start in other tissues in the breast. These cancers are called sarcomas and lymphomas and are not really thought of as breast cancers.
Although many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do. See Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms to learn what you should watch for and report to a health care provider. Many breast cancers are also found on screening mammograms, which can detect cancers at an earlier stage, often before they can be felt, and before symptoms develop.
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
Being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most women have some risk factors, but most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
Risk Factors You Cannot Change
- Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
- Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
- Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
Who Is at High Risk for Breast Cancer?
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a high risk of getting breast cancer. You may also have a high risk for ovarian cancer.
Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk, such as medicines that block or decrease estrogen in your body, or surgery.external icon