Did you know that every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States? Sadly, every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies from breast cancer. That’s more than 1,400 women every day. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer.
What is the risk of developing breast cancer?
The average American woman has about a 13% chance she will develop this disease at some point in her life. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a 7 in 8 chance she will never have the disease.
Kinds of Breast Cancer
Invasive ductal carcinoma: The cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
Invasive lobular carcinoma: Cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
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 or ovarian 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 or ovarian 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 (for instance, 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.
Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating but getting regular screenings is the best way to detect it early. The physicians and staff at Bay Area Family Physicians appreciate the opportunity to provide your medical services. We want to strengthen communication between our office and you, our patients. As specialists in Family Medicine, we focus on primary care needs for patients of all ages – from newborns to the elderly. We diagnose and treat almost all medical conditions. Ideally, your entire family will see the same doctor, allowing both you and your doctor to establish a close, trusting relationship. Contact us today for more information!