BREAST CANCER BASICS

Every three minutes, a woman in this country hears the life-altering words, “You have breast cancer.” But knowledge is power, so read on!

HERE ARE THE FACTS. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Every woman is at risk for breast cancer, which is no respecter of age. It has been found in women as young as their teens and as old as their eighties. And contrary to common belief, approximately 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women with NO FAMILY HISTORY of the disease. Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers have been linked to an identified gene mutation that can be inherited, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Today, a woman in the United States, the country with the highest breast cancer rate in the world, has a 1 in 8 chance of developing this disease during her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2011 in the United States, 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 57,650 cases of non-invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, and approximately 39,520 women will die from the disease. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death due to cancer in older women, behind only lung cancer; among young women (ages 20 – 59) it is the leading cause.

But before you close out our website in fear, frustration, or resignation, the news is not all bad. The incidence of breast cancer appears to be declining. The death rates are also declining, most likely in response to evolving treatment methods and earlier detection. If detected early enough, while still confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. That’s a figure we can all live with. So please, read all the breast health information we’ve included, and take the steps to ensure early detection.

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We of Beyond Boobs!® share this information not to scare you, but to empower you. The information on these pages will give you the power to love and care for your own body. By tending your own “garden,” you will be able to grow, flourish, and enjoy every moment of life.

TYPES OF BREAST CANCER

Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer, and it occurs in the milk ducts of the breast. Lobular carcinoma, a less common form, occurs in the lobules of the breast, where the body produces breast milk. When found contained within the ducts or lobules, these carcinomas are considered “in situ” which means “in place.” Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) often develops into invasive cancer. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) rarely develops into breast cancer, but having it does increase a women’s risk of developing breast cancer. When they spread into surrounding breast tissues, ductal and lobular carcinomas are referred to as “invasive.” About 80 percent of invasive breast cancers are ductal and about 10 percent are lobular.

A number of less common forms, such as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and Paget’s disease of the nipple, comprise the remaining 10 percent of invasive breast cancers. Though IBC may account for only 1 to 5 percent of breast cancers, this is a very aggressive form of cancer and is more common in young women. Rather than the customary lump, IBC is characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, an orange-peel look to the skin, a rash, itching, constant aching or stabbing pain, inverted nipple, or nipple discharge and, as such, may be misdiagnosed as an infection or harmless rash. Similarly, with Paget’s the nipple and areola area often become scaly, red, itchy, and irritated. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately, and ask if this could be breast cancer.

BREAST CANCER IN YOUNG WOMEN

Yes, young women can develop breast cancer! This year, about 5 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses will be made in women under the age of 40. That percentage represents over 11,000 young women! Four of our 2012 calendar girls (“A Calendar to Live By”) were diagnosed in their twenties. While breast cancer is less common in young women, the mortality rate is higher. Not only are many young women unaware of their risks for breast cancer, so are many of their doctors. Additionally, there are no routine screening methods readily available for young women, so their breast cancers tend to be more advanced when found, and young women tend to develop more aggressive forms of the disease. For these reasons, awareness of breast cancer risks and how to take charge of your breast health is critical for this population. Young women also confront many challenges from this disease that their older “sisters” do not, including fertility issues, effects of chemo-induced early menopause, the demands of working full time and raising young families while in treatment, and feelings of isolation from their peers.

BREAST CANCER BY RACE

Of all the racial groups in the United States, Caucasian women have the highest incidence of breast cancer, followed by African-Americans, but this trend is reversed in women under the age of 35. Although older African-American women are slightly less likely to develop the disease than Caucasian women, they are more likely to die of it. Not only are African-American women prone to more aggressive tumors, they may also be diagnosed at a later stage than their Caucasian “sisters.” Breast cancer incidence and death rates are lower for the remaining racial groups than for Caucasian women and African-Americans. Nonetheless, breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in Hispanic women. While there are many theories about racial disparity in diagnosis, until the causes of breast cancer are better understood, we must continue to focus on early detection for everyone.

BREAST CANCER IN MEN

Yes, men do have breasts (they just may not call them that) and while it is rare, men can develop breast cancer. About 1 percent of breast cancer diagnoses occur in men, meaning that about 2,140 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer a year, and about 450 will die from the disease. The types of breast cancer and treatment methods are similar for men and women, and when caught early, the survival rates are about the same. Symptoms generally involve a lump, skin dimpling, or changes to the nipple, but because most men don’t even know that breast cancer is possible in males, they may ignore the warning signs or not report them to a physician. Having a family history of breast cancer (either a male or female relative) is a known risk factor, as is aging and exposure to therapeutic radiation treatments to the chest area. Additionally, men (and women) of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at a greater risk. The John W. Nick Foundation is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of male breast cancer and supporting men diagnosed with the disease. To learn more, visit them at www.malebreastcancer.org.

You must be alert to any changes in your breasts, not just lumps.

Under the age of 35, African-Americans have the highest incidence of breast cancer and are prone to more aggressive tumors.

Young women, older women, even men can develop breast cancer. We all need to be alert!

Yes! Even men can get breast cancer!