Breast cancer is a disease that forms in breast tissue, which is made up of fat, glands, and ducts. It primarily affects women but also affects men. Fortunately, all breast lumps are not cancer; in fact, most lumps are benign which means they are not life-threatening. The risk grows with age and 95% of new cases of breast cancer are found in women age 40 and above.
In 2011 there were over 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer (the more serious type) and over 50,000 additional cases of in-situ cancer (less serious if treated immediately). In 2011 almost 40,000 women died from breast cancer! If you catch it early your chances of survival are excellent!
What should you do to make sure that you stay healthy?
- Check your breasts regularly for changes in appearance or lumps starting at age 20.
- Have a doctor check your breasts at least every 3 years if you are in your 20s or 30s and every year starting age 40.
- Get yearly mammograms starting at age 40!
- Be physically active!
- Have a healthy diet (vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish and low fat dairy products)!
- If you drink alcohol, limit to no more than 2 drinks on any day!
What are risk factors that increase your chances of having breast cancer?
- Older age.
- Starting your menstrual cycles at an early age.
- Being older when you first had a baby or never having given birth.
- Having breast cancer before (it can come back) or benign (non-cancer) breast disease.
- A mother or sister with breast cancer.
- Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest (not a simple X-ray).
- Breast tissue that is dense on a mammogram.
- Taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone (especially if more than 5 years).
- Drinking alcoholic beverages.
- Being white. Higher incidence of cancer in white women, but higher death rate in Black women because the cancer is usually found later.
When In Doubt, Get Checked Out
It’s recommended you see a doctor every 1-3 years, depending on age, for a breast exam to stay on the proactive healthy side of things. If you haven’t been to a doctor for a breast exam or you are of concern for anything, make an appointment immediately to see a doctor.