Common and Uncommon facts and resources you should know
Breast Cancer is a tragically common disease where malignant or cancerous cells form and begin to replicate within our otherwise-healthy breast tissue. Cancer is also referred to as a malignant neoplasm.
All cancer involves unregulated cell growth – cell division grows and occurs uncontrollably, leading to malignant tumors which spread via the lymphatic or circulatory system (your blood stream) to other parts of the body, eventually causing death.
Breast Cancer Quick Facts
- 1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime.
- Breast Cancer is the most-diagnosed cancer among women (other than skin cancer).
- Breast Cancer is the second-leading cause of death amongst women.
- Of the 220,000 Breast Cancer diagnoses in the United States alone, 40,000 will be fatal.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
Unfortunately, no one really knows why Breast Cancer develops in one woman, and not the next. There are definite risk factors that increase one’s chances of being diagnosed, but certain rumors – such as caffeine, deodorant, microwaves, cell phones, etc. are just that – rumors not supported by facts, research – or anything else.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are several different varieties of Breast Cancer. The two most common are Ductal Carcinoma and Lobular Carcinoma. Ductal Carcinoma begins in the cells that line the breast duct. Lobular Carcinoma begins in the lobular part of the breast.
70% of Breast Cancer diagnoses consist of Ductal Carcinoma. Lobular Carcinoma accounts for another 10% of Breast Cancer diagnoses. As you can probably surmise from these figures, there are other, rarer forms of Breast Cancer – and it is possible to be diagnosed with both ductal & lobular carcinoma.
What are Breast Cancer “Risk Factors?”
Risk factors for Breast can be either genetic or environmental. Obviously, the genetic dispositions that heighten your risk of developing Breast Cancer cannot be changed – but some environmental ones can be avoided, and others overcome.
Genetic Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Gender – First and foremost, vastly more women are diagnosed with Breast Cancer than men. So if you’re born with two “x” chromosomes, your risk increases.
- Family History – If you have a family history of Breast Cancer or ovarian cancer, your risk factor increases.
- Age – This one’s technically not genetic – but since you cannot slow the passage of time, it is nevertheless beyond your control. Read this part: 2 out of 3 women with invasive Breast Cancer are diagnosed after age 55. More bad news: if you have family members that were diagnosed with Breast Cancer by age 50, your chances increase as well.
- Genome Mutations – Changes to genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase your risks. Good news: you can take a genome test to find out if you carry these mutated genes.
Other Personal Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Personal History – If you were ever diagnosed with Breast Cancer in one breast, it stands to reason that you’re in a high risk of being diagnosed in the other breast.
- Reproductive and Menstrual History – If you got your period before age 12 or experienced menopause after age 55, your risk increases. Similar risks occur for later-life pregnancy and never having a child at all (don’t let these “risk factors” dictate how you live your life, however).
Environmental Breast Cancer Risk Factors
It’s about time for some good news: these risk factors you can do something about. Plus, studiously adhering to the opposites of these poor environmental choices will lead to a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle – Breast Cancer diagnoses or no!
- Sedentary Lifestyle – Get up and get out there: lack of physical activity can increase your risk of Breast Cancer – along with a host of other serious physical maladies.
- Poor Diet & Excessive Alcohol – Diets high in saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables (read: western pattern diets) and a high alcohol intake are risk factors for Breast Cancer – along with increasing your chances of developing other health problems.
- Overweight or Obesity – Both these are Breast Cancer risk factors. If you think you’re overweight and/or qualify as obese, talk to your physician. There are more treatments and options to change your life than ever before.
A word on Hormone Replacement Therapy – While by no means a condemnation in and of itself, HRT (as prescribed for symptoms of menopause, for instance) is widely thought to increase your chances of Breast Cancer. What’s worse, it seems that these Hormone treatments make late-life-stage diagnoses more likely.
Risk Factors do NOT Equal Breast Cancer
It is important to realize that only a healthy lifestyle and pro-active consultation and partnership with your doctor can help you prevent (or potentially treat & survive after diagnosis) Breast Cancer. 60 – 70% of diagnosed Breast Cancer cases have no connection to these risk factors – and untold numbers of women with high risk never develop cancer at all.
Breast Cancer Survival Starts with You
Early Detection: according to the National Cancer Institute, when Breast Cancer is detected while still in the localized state (early) the 5-year survival rate is 98%. It is very important that you develop an early detection plan with your doctor.
Along with trying to lead a healthy lifestyle and making informed decisions regarding things such as combined hormone replacement therapy, knowing your risks and remaining vigilant is the best way to surviving a Breast Cancer diagnosis.
To learn about Breast Cancer, risk factors, and more visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
For a more comprehensive list of Breast Cancer Tests, Treatment Options, and Important Questions for your Doctor, visit the National Cancer Institute.