Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the United States. With so much attention given to fighting breast cancer, shouldn’t every woman know all the facts by now? You’d be surprised. Many women believe only certain signs put them at risk when, in fact, the main risk factor for developing breast cancer is simply being a woman.
All women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing cancer in their life. Caucasian women have a higher risk than African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic-American women of developing breast cancer. And regardless of your race, risk increases with age.
Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer are at an even higher risk. Even so, this does not mean that younger women, women of certain racial or ethnic groups, or those with no family history cannot develop breast cancer.
Facts about breast cancer
Researchers are learning more and more about breast cancer every year. That means they’re that much closer to finding a cure. Here are some facts that might surprise you:
- About 5 percent of all breast cancers develop in women before age 40.
- About 18 percent of breast cancers develop in women in their 40s.
- Only 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are a result of hereditary gene mutations.
- Only 5-7 percent of all women with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer incidence in Japanese-American women is approaching that of Caucasian Americans.
- Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.
- African-American women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are less likely than Caucasian women to survive five years after diagnosis.
What to watch for?
Often, physical symptoms may not appear until breast cancer is more advanced. Some symptoms to be aware of include:
- A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Nipple tenderness
- A change in your breast shape or size
- Nipple discharge or bleeding
- A nipple turned inward, toward the breast
- Scaly, swollen, dimpled or red skin on your breast
Self-exams, clinical breast exams and mammograms can help detect breast cancer early, when treatment is most effective.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women:
- Have a clinical breast exam every three years in their 20s and 30s and yearly after that.
- Have a yearly mammogram starting at 40 and every year after. If you are at increased risk, talk with your doctor about starting earlier.
- Report any breast changes promptly to your doctor and do regular breast self-exams.
If you are over 40 and have questions about breast cancer, your risks for developing breast cancer and prevention, speak with your doctor and schedule a mammogram today.
Sources: Cancer.org, NLM.NIH.gov