October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness for the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.
Early detection is incredibly important when it comes to cancers, and breast cancer is no different. Raising awareness helps remind women to perform self breast examinations on a monthly basis and go for annual mammograms.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy cells in the body. This happens during the process of cell growth when something goes wrong; new cells form when the body doesn’t need them, and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. When this occurs, a buildup of cells often forms a mass of tissue called a lump, growth or tumor.
Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast tissue. If not caught, the abnormal cells can then spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.
There are two types of breast cancer tumors: those that are non-cancerous (benign) and those that are cancerous (malignant). When a tumor is diagnosed as benign, doctors will usually leave it alone rather than remove it. Even though these tumors are not generally aggressive toward surrounding tissue, occasionally they may continue to grow, pressing on organs and causing pain or other problems. In these situations, the tumor is removed, allowing pain or complications to subside.
Malignant tumors are cancerous and aggressive because they invade and damage surrounding tissue. When a tumor is suspected to be malignant, the doctor will perform a biopsy to determine the severity or aggressiveness of the tumor. Metastatic cancer is when cancer cells of a malignant tumor spread to other parts of the body (usually through the lymph system) and form a secondary tumor.
Causes & Risks of Breast Cancer
No one knows the exact causes of breast cancer. Doctors seldom know why one person develops breast cancer and another doesn’t, and most men (yes, men can get breast cancer too, though it is much less common) and women who have breast cancer will never be able to pinpoint an exact cause. What we do know is that breast cancer is always caused by damage to a cell’s DNA.
Women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop breast cancer. Some risk factors (such as drinking alcohol or smoking) can be avoided. But most risk factors (such as age and genetics) can’t be avoided. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get breast cancer. Many women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer.
Risk factors include:
- Being a woman
- Family history
- Pregnancy history
- Breastfeeding history
- Menstruation history
- Dense breast tissue
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking alcohol frequently
- Radiation to the chest or face before age 30
- Using hormone replacement therapy
Sixty-seventy percent of people with breast cancer have no connection to these risk factors at all, and other people with risk factors will never develop cancer.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
In 2018 there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer including those being currently treated
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women after skin cancer
It’s estimated that over 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year
Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,5500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer
About 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history
Death rates have been decreasing for almost 30 years with women over 50 experiencing the largest decreases. This is thought to be the result not only of earlier detection, screening and treatment advances but also awareness!
Please join the fight against breast cancer. Your support helps raise awareness and funds to help in treatment!
Updated, October 1, 2018