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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Breast Cancer Month

4 Ways to Support a Loved One with Breast Cancer

We want to do everything we can to be there for loved ones, especially during a challenging time like battling breast cancer. They’ll need emotional support while experiencing possible side effects from treatment along with feelings of hopelessness, anger, and fear throughout this process.

The good news is that they have you to help them during this time. Here are 4 ways you can support them through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery:

1. Listen

Lady With Breast Cancer Being Supported

Your loved one may be overwhelmed with emotions. This is their diagnosis and their journey – what you can do is provide a safe space so they can talk freely about it.

They may not always feel comfortable enough to share their feelings and may avoid the topic. “Listen” to their body language and behavior: they may be asking for more help or some space. Either way, let them know they are not alone.

2. Help Them Feel Good

Two Girls Enjoying Spa

Reassure your loved one they are worthy of a good time. Take them out for a manicure, go for a soothing massage, dine at their favorite restaurant, go to a concert, or join a dance class if they’re up for it. You can even stay indoors and have a cooking party, host a spa day at home, or watch a comedy.

Make it an open-ended invite, so they can pick the best time for them. Help them feel normal while you encourage them to maintain a positive outlook.

3. Be a Helping Hand

Women Holding Hands

Step on up! Your loved one will probably appreciate a little help with their day-to-day duties. Offer to take care of the common errands on their to-do list like buying groceries, helping clean their house, or picking up their prescriptions.

Even during the best of times, taking care of a family can be a lot of work! Offer to help with their children: helping out with homework or taking them to their sports practices.

It’s hard for people to accept help from others, especially when it comes to taking care of their family. Let them know they don’t have to face this alone and its okay to accept help. That’s what friends are for!

4. Gather a Support Team

Teens Hugging Eachother

A team full of love and support is the ultimate gift. Build the greatest support team of family, friends, and even coworkers! Everyone can work together to help make meals, take turns visiting, or drive them to appointments.

Learn more about breast cancer to understand a little bit more about what your friend or loved one is going through. You have the power to make a difference. Let them know they are loved and appreciated just by being themselves.

AltaMed woman looking in the mirror

The Value of Preventive Cancer Screenings for Early Detection

If you’re interested in improving your health and taking care of your body, you may already be getting more fit and active, making better choices about your diet, and seeing your doctor for regular checkups. One of the best ways to protect your good health is to follow any recommendations from your doctor for preventive cancer screening tests. 

Why Should I Have Cancer Screenings?

Doctor Doing a Mammography Scan

Cancer screenings help find cancer early, sometimes even before there are symptoms, when it may be easier to treat or cure.

Cancer tests may involve:

  • Physical exams
  • Lab tests (such as blood or urine samples)
  • Imaging procedures (such as MRIs or ultrasounds)
  • Genetic tests

It is important to remember that being referred for a test doesn’t mean that your doctor believes that you have cancer. The tests often help rule out cancer as a possibility. 

When Will My Doctor Recommend Screenings?

Woman on a Doctor's Appointment

Even if you have no symptoms, preventive cancer screenings are recommended if you are at risk for certain cancers.

This may mean that you have:

  • A family history
  • A personal history
  • Certain previously identified genetic signs
  • Previous exposure to cancer-causing substances either through smoking or in your workplace
  • Developed a blood clot without a clear reason

Doctors are also more likely to recommend screenings for older patients, but if you have more risk factors, your doctor may suggest screenings at a younger age than usual.

Types of Screenings

Woman With Doctor in Medical Examination

You doctor may recommend one or more of the following screenings: 

  •  Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy screenings look for early signs of colorectal cancer and are usually performed on people aged 50-75.
  • An X-ray called a low-dose helical computed tomography (LDCT) is used to screen for lung cancer in those between the ages of 55 – 74 who have a history of heavy smoking.
  • Mammograms screen for breast cancer and have been shown to reduce deaths from the disease for women aged 40-74. 
  • Pap & HPV testing are used for early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Testing typically begins at 21 and ends at 65, provided the woman is at normal risk.

Other screenings outlined by the National Cancer Institute are used to look for:

  • Liver disease (blood test)
  • Genetic mutations that lead to breast cancer (breast MRI)
  • Ovarian cancer (blood test and ultrasound)
  • Abnormalities leading to skin cancer (skin exams)
  • Prostate cancer (blood test)

Early Detection is Key

Woman at Medical Exam

Early detection is the number one goal of these screenings. By finding any abnormalities at their earliest stage, you can reduce the chance of the cancer spreading, and improve the chances of treating or even curing it. 

The best way to stay healthy and make sure you are getting the screenings you need is to get regular health checkups. Depending on your personal and family health histories, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you.

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

Everything to Know about Breast Cancer