Early Detection Helps Increase Breast Cancer Survival Rate

The American Cancer Society can help find treatment

By Barbara Pierce

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is second to lung cancer as the leading cause of death for women, says the American Cancer Society online.

One in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer. For men, the lifetime risk is small, about one in 833.

As women, we’re all at risk. To learn how to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat it, here is helpful information from the American Cancer Society.

Preventing breast cancer

There are two primary risk factors for breast cancer: being a woman and aging. The disease is most common in women older than 50.

Other risk factors which are out of a woman’s control:

• Genetic mutations, particularly in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase odds of breast and ovarian cancer.

• Family history of breast or ovarian cancer. If a relative has had breast cancer, the closer they are to you on your family tree, the higher your risk of developing the disease.

• Reproductive history, starting menstrual periods before 12 or menopause after 55, which increases hormone exposure.

• Dense breasts.

• Previous radiation therapy in the chest area before age 30.

• Taking DES (diethylstilbestrol), a miscarriage prevention drug given to some pregnant women between 1940 and 1971.

• History of breast cancer or other breast diseases.

• First pregnancy after 30, never breastfeeding or never having a full-term pregnancy.

• Taking certain birth control pills or some forms of hormone replacement therapy during menopause.

•African American women have an increased risk.
There’s no sure way to prevent breast cancer. However, you can lower your risk by changing these risk factors that are under your control:

• Limit alcohol

• Stop smoking

• Lose weight if you are overweight

• Get active

• Avoid the use of hormones

Whether you have risk factors or not, it’s important to get a mammogram. Screening can find the cancer before it causes symptoms (like a lump). When found early, it’s easier to treat.

Diagnosing breast cancer

Finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art Breast Cancer Treatment Services are the most important strategies in preventing death from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early is easier to treat successfully.

Since mammograms started to be promoted, in the 1980s, the overall mortality rate from breast cancer is down by 40%.

Mammograms are low-dose X-rays of the breast. They can find breast changes that could be cancer years before symptoms develop. Women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early and less likely to need aggressive treatment like surgery and chemotherapy, and are more likely to be cured.

Screening guidelines for women at average risk: Women between 40-44 should start screening with a mammogram every year; women 45-54 should get mammograms every year; women older than 55 can switch to a mammogram every other year. Screening should continue as long as you are in good health and expected to live at least 10 more years.

Screening guidelines for women who are at high risk: Get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year, starting at age 30.

All women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel; report any changes to a health care provider right away. Since 2015, breast self-exams haven’t been recommended; there was no evidence that they increased early breast cancer detection.

Most insurances cover mammograms at no cost to you. If you don’t have insurance, New York State Cancer Services offers free screening services for those eligible.

If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, yes, it’s scary. However, your cancer care team will be there to support you and discuss treatment options with you. Think carefully about each option; weigh the benefits against the possible risks and side effects.

Treatment plans are based on the type of breast cancer, its stage, any special situations and your overall health and personal preferences.

Some treatments are local, meaning they treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body.

Most women with breast cancer will have surgery to remove the tumor. Depending on the type of breast cancer and how advanced it is, you might need other types of treatment as well, either before or after surgery or sometimes both.

Drugs used to treat breast cancer can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body. They can be given by mouth or put directly into the bloodstream.

It’s important to discuss all your treatment options with your doctors, including goals and possible side effects, to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also important to ask any questions you have.

It’s often a good idea to seek a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel confident about the treatment plan you choose.

The American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program connects people facing breast cancer with volunteers who are breast cancer survivors.

For more information, see www.cancer.org/breastcancer