Health & Fitness: Get Regular Screening Tests to Detect and Fight Breast Cancer
Besides skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Finding breast cancer early can help save lives, and getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to achieve this. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, District 4 of the Georgia Department of Public Health is reminding women about the importance of early detection, knowing their risk factor and when to begin annual screenings.
Why is early detection important?
Finding breast cancer early (when it’s small, hasn’t spread and might be easier to treat) can help prevent deaths. Women should be familiar with how their breasts usually look and feel and immediately report any changes to their health care provider.
For women at average risk for breast cancer, the American Cancer Society offers the following recommendations:
• Women ages 40 to 44 can choose to start yearly breast cancer screening with a mammogram (x-ray of the breast).
• Women ages 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
• Women 55 and older can either continue yearly screenings or switch to a mammogram every two years.
• Screening should continue if a woman is in good health and expected to live at least 10 more years.
In addition to a mammogram, women at high risk for breast cancer, either because of their family history, a genetic mutation or other risk factors, should be screened with MRI. They should talk with a health care provider about their breast cancer risk to determine the best screening plan.
Racial and ethnic differences
The American Cancer Society reports differences in breast cancer risk and outcomes based on race and ethnicity:
• Black women are slightly younger when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer (60 years old) compared to white women (63 years old).
• Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer. About one in five Black women with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer, more than any other racial or ethnic group.
• Black women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 40 compared to white women.
• At all ages, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group.
• White and Asian/Pacific Islander women are more likely to be diagnosed with localized breast cancer than Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
• Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest death rate from breast cancer.
• American Indian/Alaska Natives have the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
Other breast cancer risk factors
The National Breast Cancer Foundation outlines some breast cancer risk factors based on a number of demographics:
• Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women compared to men.
• Age: Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
• Race: Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than women of other races.
• Obesity: Obesity is a risk factor for both men and women.
• Family history and genetics: If a person’s mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, they have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. The risk increases if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.
• Personal health history: If a person has been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, there’s an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future. The risk increases if abnormal breast cells have previously been detected, such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
• Menstrual and reproductive history: Women who had an early menstruation (before age 12), had late menopause (after age 55), had their first child at an older age or have never given birth can also have increased risk for breast cancer.
• Genome changes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase a person’s risk for breast cancer, which can be determined through genetic testing. Individuals with a family history of breast cancer may consider undergoing this testing. These gene mutations can be passed along to their children.
• Dense breast tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase a person’s risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Several states have passed laws requiring physicians to disclose if a woman’s mammogram indicates she has dense breasts so she’s aware of this risk. Women should ask their physician if they have dense breasts and how to proceed.
Breast cancer statistics
Here are some recent breast cancer statistics from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:
• In 2022, 287,500 estimated new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States, in addition to 51,400 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
• Sixty-five percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage meaning there is no sign the cancer has spread outside of the breast. The five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent.
• In 2022, an estimated 43,550 U.S. women will die from breast cancer.
• Men get breast cancer, too, though it’s rare. In 2022, an estimated 2,710 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S., and about 530 men will die from breast cancer.
• One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. In 2022, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women will be breast cancer.
• There are more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.