October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, outside of skin cancer. About 1 in 8 (13%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
dr. Khannah Smith, MD
“It’s important to discuss your risk factors with your doctor, who can help determine the appropriate age to begin screening and the frequency of screening tests, such as 3D mammography, self-breast exams, and clinical breast exams,” said Khannah Smith, MD, a physician with the Wright Memorial Physicians’ Group. “Most breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed as a result of an abnormal screening test.”
The American Cancer Society estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2021 are:
About 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 49,290 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer). About 43,600 women will die from breast cancer.
“Breast cancer awareness is unprecedented in the US, which has certainly helped save lives,” said Dr. Smith. “Advances in technology, such as 3D mammography, have certainly helped with earlier diagnosis of the disease. Earlier diagnosis, along with advanced treatment options, has led to a continuing decline in breast cancer death rates.”
Knowing personal risk factors can help a woman and her doctor plan a course of action that can reduce her chances of developing the disease or detect it in the earliest, most treatable stages.
The most common risk factors, according to The American Cancer Society:
Sex – This is the main risk factor for breast cancer. Men can also get breast cancer, but this disease is much more common in women than in men.
race – In general, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, although the gap between them has narrowed in recent years. In women under the age of 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women. African-American women are also more likely to die of breast cancer at any age. Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
Age – As you get older, your risk of breast cancer increases. Most breast cancers are found in women aged 55 and older.
Personal history – A woman with cancer in one breast has a higher risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. (This is different from a recurrence or recurrence of a first cancer.) While this risk is generally low, it’s even higher for younger women with breast cancer.
family history – In total, about 15% of women with breast cancer have a relative with this disease. It is important to note that most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease. But women with close blood relatives with breast cancer have a higher risk: Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer nearly doubles a woman’s risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk about 3-fold. Women with a father or brother who has had breast cancer also have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Genetics – About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning they result directly from gene changes (mutations) passed down from a parent. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Other gene mutations can also lead to hereditary breast cancer.
pregnancy history – Women who have not had children or who have had their first child after the age of 30 generally have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Having many pregnancies and getting pregnant at a young age reduces the risk of breast cancer.
History of breastfeeding – Most studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower the risk of breast cancer, especially if continued for a year or more.
Early menstruation/late menopause – Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating early have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. The increase in risk may be due to longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.
radiation – Women who were treated with breast radiation for another cancer at a younger age have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer. This risk depends on their age when they were irradiated.
Birth control – Some birth control methods use hormones, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.
When people are diagnosed with breast cancer, Wright Memorial Hospital offers a free Oncology Nurse Navigator program to guide the process.
“We are truly blessed to have an oncology Nurse Navigator program on site at Wright Memorial Hospital,” said Dr. Smith. “Most smaller community hospitals cannot offer such a service for free. The nurse navigator can help the patient schedule testing and genetic counseling offers free classes that help cancer patients with nutrition and beauty tips, and many other services that make a cancer diagnosis more manageable.
To schedule an annual screening at Wright Memorial Hospital, call 660-358-5818 or make an appointment on the Saint Luke website.
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