1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. With those bone-chilling statistics, it’s no wonder you know at least one person who has suffered from this horrendous disease. When I hear the term “breast cancer” my first thought is of my late dance instructor, Melissa Galvin, who battled this disease twice. Melissa’s first diagnosis came 6 months after her mom passed from the same disease. She dedicated much of her time advocating the importance of early detection and hope for a cure. Melissa won her first battle, but was diagnosed a second time, and passed at the age of 34. Her message on checking for cancer early is extremely important for women of all ages. Here are some facts, stats, prevention, and support tips for this scary disease.
The Facts and Stats:
Here are some of the facts and statistics for breast cancer among women in the United States.
- 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.
While no one knows the exact cause of breast cancer here are some non-avoidable and avoidable risk factors to help your understanding.
Non- Avoidable Risks:
- Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
- Age: Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
- Race: Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than women of other races.
- Family History and Genetic Factors: If your mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.
- Personal Health History: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before (such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)).
- Menstrual and Reproductive History: Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Certain Genome Changes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
- Dense Breast Tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Several states have passed laws requiring physicians to disclose to women if their mammogram indicates that they have dense breasts so that they are aware of this risk. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.
Avoidable Risk Factors:
- Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.
- Drinking Alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.
- Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.
Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection of lumps or bumps can save lives. Here are some ways you can check yourself this month:
- Know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer.
- Check breasts for lumps and bumps once a month with a breast self-exam.
- Set up clinical exams with your physician
- Get a mammogram
- Establish a healthy lifestyle
Here are some fun ways to celebrate breast cancer awareness this October:
- Participate in Dress Pink Day on October 27th
- Walk in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on October 7th in Salt Lake City
- Donate to a reputable charity for cancer research
- Educate other women and men about the disease
- Paint a pumpkin pink for Halloween
Don’t let breast cancer be scary this Halloween. Detect for signs early, and above all Save the (Boo)bies.
Information provied by the National Breast Cancer Foundation