Women’s Health

Everything to Know about Breast Cancer

ANYONE can get breast cancer. No matter your gender, having breast tissue puts you at risk.

One in eight U.S. women, or 13%, are going to develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. An estimated 297,790 women are going to develop invasive breast cancer before the year is out.

Men’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer is one in 833, but it still happens. An estimated 2,800 U.S. men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer before the end of the year.

It is the most diagnosed cancer among U.S. women representing nearly one-third of all new cancer cases. There are more than 3.8 million women living either with breast cancer or having just been treated for breast cancer.

Despite all of this, it is survivable.

What Is It?

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow out of control, forming a lump or tumor. Once a mass is detected, a test called a biopsy is performed to determine if the mass is malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).

If the mass is benign, you’re out of the danger zone. If the cells are cancerous, they can spread to other parts of the body. Once it’s confirmed you have breast cancer, your doctors will help you start treatment as soon as possible.

Always feel free to get a second opinion regardless of the results being positive or negative.

Breast Cancer Disparities

Breast cancer is the most common form of the cancer in the U.S. after non-melanoma skin cancer and the second deadliest after lung cancer. There has been a 43% decline in breast cancer deaths over the last three decades. Early diagnosis, awareness, and more effective treatments are the reason.

However, there continues to be a mortality gap between white women and women of color:

  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. for Black and Hispanic women.
  • Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group.
  • One in five Black women is diagnosed with aggressive subtypes like triple-negative breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer — more than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Black women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and with a more advanced stage of breast cancer.

Know Your Risks

Everyone has a chance of developing breast cancer, but there are factors that increase your risk. Race and ethnicity play a role, as does gender. Family history, however, is the biggest factor. A parent or sibling who develops breast cancer increases the risk for you.

Other factors:

What to Look For

Breast cancer symptoms can vary dramatically. Most people look for lumps. Swelling and changes to the skin can also be warning signs. Some types of breast cancer lack obvious symptoms.

You should see a physician if you encounter any of the following:

  • A new lump in the breast or a lump that has changed
  • A change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Pain in the nipple or breast that doesn’t go away
  • Swollen, red, or flaky skin on the breast
  • Nipple becomes tender or turns inward
  • Nipple leaks blood or non-milk fluid

Screening Guidelines

A mammogram is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do a preliminary screening for breast cancer. It essentially takes an x-ray of the breast.

As of May 2023, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women with average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every year starting at age 40 and ending at 74.

Women with higher-than-average risk can start as early as 30, depending on what is recommended by their physician. The American College of Radiology recommends that ALL WOMEN, especially Black women and women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, be evaluated by 25 to see if they are at an elevated risk.

You are at a higher-than-average risk if:

  • You had genetic testing and found changes in certain genes that increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer.
  • A parent, sibling, or child had a genetic mutation increasing their breast cancer risk, but you haven’t been tested yet.
  • You have a family member who developed breast cancer before they turned 50.
  • You’ve been diagnosed with certain breast conditions like lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia, atypical lobular hyperplasia.

What You Can Do

No one can prevent breast cancer. You can help to minimize your risk, however, with healthy lifestyle habits:

  • Drink water regularly
  • Eat fresh and nutritious foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep stress levels as low as possible
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get tested

Taking Charge of Your Health

Screenings are powerful tools in the fight against breast cancer. Your health matters, and early detection can be a lifesaver. Don't hesitate to discuss screening options with your health care provider. Your AltaMed physician may recommend additional screenings depending on your personal and family health histories.

Contact us for more information about the health screenings you need at (888) 499-9303.

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Everything to Know about Breast Cancer