Breast cancer is a disease that cannot be prevented. It occurs when malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast when a cell’s DNA is damaged.
If it is found early, there are more treatment options and a better chance for survival. The discovery of a new lump or a change in the breast tissue is an early warning sign. Routine (monthly) self-examination, clinical examinations and mammograms can help with early detection.
Treatments for breast cancer vary depending on the type, but the most common is surgery that removes the tumor such as a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and reconstruction. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone and targeted drug therapies may also be used in breast cancer treatment.
Why or how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. Most patients will never know exactly what caused their cancer. However, there are certain established genetic risk factors:
- Gender, Age and Race: If you are a Caucasian woman over the age of 55, you have the greatest risk for breast cancer.
- Family History and Genetic Factors: If a relative has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, especially if that relative is over 50, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed in the future.
- Personal Health History and Dense Breast Tissue: A diagnosis of breast cancer in one breast increases the risk of being diagnosed in the other breast in the future. Further, having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer.
- 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.
THE GOOD NEWS is that due to scientific research breast cancer among women aged 50 and older, as well as breast cancer death rates, are both declining. There are over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please click on the link below and support National Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Project to fund scientific breast cancer research.