Breast cancer is the most diagnosed type of cancer amongst women – as well as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Each October, throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, doctors and healthcare providers work to bring awareness to the importance of regular screenings.
Breast cancer is a malignancy in which cells grow out of control in one or both breasts. Symptoms include a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple, and changes in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast. Available treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and immune therapy, with several new treatments currently in development.
Breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women aged 55 to 74. Breast cancer is most prevalent in non-Hispanic whites and blacks, with non-Hispanic black being the largest population to die from the disease.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. However, breast cancer can also occur in men. Breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women who are in their 50s and 60s. Of all breast cancer cases diagnosed, 64% are diagnosed at the localized stage, which has a five-year survival rate of 99.1%. As the stage progresses, mortality increases.
These diagnosis and survival rates mean early detection is a key factor in preventing progression. According to the American College of Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, and the American Cancer Society, women should start having mammograms to screen for breast cancer at the age of 40, and they should have yearly screenings through the age of 74. After the age of 74, the need for screenings is determined on a case-by-case basis. Women who have a low risk of breast cancer can defer screenings until the age of 50; this decision should always be based on a discussion with a physician about risk factors.
Women who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer may start having screening mammograms before the age of 40. For women with an immediate family history of breast cancer, screenings should begin 10 years prior to the youngest family members’ age of diagnosis or at age 40 (whichever age is younger). For example, if a woman’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44, she should begin having mammograms at the age of 34. If her mother was diagnosed at the age of 55, she would have her first screening at the age of 40.
Women may also be candidates for genetic testing based on their risk factors. A physician can help determine if genetic testing would be appropriate. Genetic testing can show whether a woman has a genetic predisposition towards developing breast cancer. A physician will use these results to help determine the best screening and treatment plan.
It is possible to reduce the risk factors associated with breast cancer. Women should decrease their alcohol intake, stop smoking, get regular exercise, and have a mammogram every year. By taking these steps, women can lower their risk of developing breast cancer and help ensure they stay healthy.
Dr. Sadia Ali is a proud member of the TopLine MD Alliance practicing Primary Care in Broward County.
The TopLine MD Alliance is an association of independent physicians and medical practice groups who are committed to providing a higher standard of healthcare services. The members of the TopLine MD Alliance have no legal or financial relationship with one another. The TopLine MD Alliance brand has no formal corporate, financial or legal ties to any of the affiliated physicians or practice groups.