October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
When asked what disease they most fear, women typically answer “breast cancer.” Yet the statistic that says one woman out of eight will develop breast cancer is often misunderstood and unnecessarily frightening to many women.
What is your real risk of breast cancer? The “one in eight” statistic does NOT mean that one woman out of every eight has breast cancer right now, or even that one in eight women will die of breast cancer. It actually means that women who live to be 85 will have a 1-in-8 lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, most women are likely to die of heart disease and/or other causes, not from breast cancer. Early detection is a major defense in the battle against breast cancer. With more than 180,000 new cases of the disease expected in 1999, education about early detection is imperative.
If you are a woman, you are at risk for breast cancer. The complex and difficult part is determining how much of a risk. Remember, risk factors themselves don’t cause the cancer. Knowing your risk factors will help you and your doctor evaluate what measures, if any, you should take.
- Be sure to look at all risk factors. Many women think that breast cancer won’t touch them because no one in their immediate family has had breast cancer. This is a mistake.
- Every woman is at risk for breast cancer.
- No one really knows who will get breast cancer
- Simply being a woman and getting older puts you at risk.
- Most breast cancer occurs in women with no family history. (Assessing your risk for breast cancer — Zeneca Pharmaceuticals)
- An overriding risk factor is age. And it appears to be the easiest one for women to ignore. After all, aging is simply a part of living. But it’s also a significant risk factor either alone or when combined with others. By far, the greatest number of breast cancers occur in women over 60. All other risk factors should be evaluated in conjunction with your age.
- Breast cancer often runs in families. Most people understand that family history is an important factor in breast cancer; in fact, they think of it as the most important. Well, it is very important. Your risk increases by the number of close family members who’ve had breast cancer, especially first-degree relatives, like a mother, sister, or daughter. However, 80% of all breast cancer occurs in women over 50 with no family history.
- Previous biopsies for premalignant diseases. Certain types of breast disease, while not cancerous, do not increase a woman’s risk for later breast cancer: they are LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ) and atypical hyperlasia. These conditions are usually detected in a biopsy, which is when some tissue is taken from the breast either with a needle of by making an incision to remove a larger sample. Sometimes biopsies remove an entire lump for analysis. Fibrocystic breast “disease” is not a risk factor and is merely a catchall phrase for “lumpy” breasts.
- Having an early first period. Women who begin menstruating before age 12 are at increased risk. It seems that the more cycles a woman has over her life, the more likely she is to get breast cancer. The number of years between a woman’s first period and her pregnancy are also significant. It seems pregnancy before age 30 “matures” breast tissue, making it less prone to cancer.
- Having a first pregnancy after 30. While early pregnancies may help lower your chances of getting breast cancer, these same hormonal changes after age 30 may contribute to breast cancer, making later first pregnancies a risk factor.
- Having no children. Just like beginning your period early or your menopause late, having no children mend you are experiencing continuous cycles until menopause and therefore increasing your exposure to estrogen.
Just because breast cancer is considered a “woman’s disease” does not mean that men do not need or want information about it. Men also get breast cancer. An estimated 1,300 cases will be diagnosed among men in 1999. Encourage the men in your community to educate themselves not only about the risk for women, but for themselves as well.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that in 1999 there will be about 175,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed among women in the United States.
- Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women aged 40 to 50.
- The mortality rate has been decreasing during the past few years. The most likely reason: increased screening of women, leading to detection of cancers at an earlier stage, and more effective treatments.
This October will be the 15th year that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated in America. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month grew out of the efforts of S. B. and her mother B. F., who wanted to address the lack of public information about breast cancer. In 1985, their public service announcement was broadcast nationally to educate women about the value of early detection of breast cancer. The week-long campaign generated so much interest that people from all over the country called wanting to do more. And so began the annual month-long campaign to fight breast cancer known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Today, this campaign reaches millions with the support of government, many businesses and the medical community — including the Health Alliance.
The Health Alliance continues to be a leader in cancer care using a multidisciplinary approach in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, education and research of cancer. Our diverse health care team includes physicians and specialists in all areas of cancer care including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, gynecological oncology, as well as nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists and many others. In addition, Health Alliance physicians and world-renowned cancer researchers in our facilities offer internationally recognized services in neuro-oncology, head and neck oncology, stem cell transplantation and clinical cancer research. The Health Alliance offers a holistic approach to cancer care not only recognizing the physical needs of our patients, but also recognizing and supporting the emotional and spiritual needs of them and their families.
Through the collaborative efforts of the cancer centers throughout the Health Alliance, patients and their families receive the most comprehensive and highest quality cancer care available. Our continued commitment to provide the best possible patient care includes clinical research studies, programs of cancer prevention, cancer information services, commitment to community services and outreach activities, programs of research training and continuing education for health care professionals.
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