Health & Wellness from Carol

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors develop in the breast. These cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor and entering blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into tissues throughout the body. When cancer cells travel to other parts of the body and begin damaging other tissues and organs, the process is called metastasis. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 440 will die each year. Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.

Good News About Breast Cancer Trends: In recent years, we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and improving treatment options.

Early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. Mammography screening:: Mammography screening is the only screening method that has proven to be effective. Breast self examination (BSE): There is no evidence on the effect of screening through breast self-examination (BSE). However, the practice of BSE has been seen to empower women, taking responsibility for their own health. Clinical Breast Examination (CBE): Research is underway to evaluate CBE performed by a healthcare professional as a low-cost approach to breast cancer screening that can work in less affluent countries.


Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer. Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer, and is an especially important contributor.

Menopause: Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.

Drinking Alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.

Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.

Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer.

Genetic Factors

Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in 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.

Family History and Genetic Factors: If your mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian
cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

Personal Health History: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of
being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future.

Menstrual and Reproductive History: Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first
child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer.

Certain Gene Mutations such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and TP53.
Dense Breast Tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to

These Do Not Cause Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is not contagious; you can’t contract cancer from a person who has the disease. Breast cancer is not caused by wearing underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, plastic food serving items, microwaves, or cell phones, as myths often suggest.

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. A mammogram allows the doctor to have a closer look for changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt during a breast exam. At Mayo Clinic, doctors offer mammograms to women beginning at age 40 and continuing annually. When to begin mammogram screening and how often to repeat it is a personal decision based on your preferences. The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all have issued guidelines saying that all women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40.

From the time of diagnosis, you will work with a team of cancer-care specialist. It’s important to find the right team of professionals with whom you are comfortable. Once you understand treatments and treatment goals, you will be able to make a decision you and your loved ones are comfortable with. Below is a list of treatment options. Many times there is combined treatment.


Here some ideas that may be important to consider regarding second opinions: Most breast cancer doctors are very comfortable with their patients seeking a second opinion. Many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it, and some companies require a second opinion. It is important to be sure that treatments you receive are in keeping with the NCCN, (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) treatment guidelines

So consider printing off the NCCN Guidelines for Patients document. It contains the guidelines for treatment based on stage of the disease and prognostic factors of the tumor that are considered the gold standard nationally.

Join the MyNBCF, a support community for breast cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones to discuss diagnosis, treatment and everything in between. Get answers at, our educational resource.