Isn’t Caroline Pretty in Pink?

Our Mammography staff and Caroline want to remind you that a mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Statistics 

  • Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women
  • American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates for 2012 include 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer being diagnosed in women in the U.S. In addition, carcinoma in situ (cancer that has not spread beyond the original site) will be responsible for 63,300 new cases this year. Of these, about 85 percent will be ductal carcinoma in situ.
  • In 2012, it is estimated that 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Year 2012 estimates include 39,920 deaths occurring from breast cancer in the U.S. alone. This includes approximately 39,510 women and 410 men.
  • According to ACS, the breast cancer death rate in women age 50 and older in the U.S. has been falling by about 2 percent per year, since 1990.
  • Breast cancer ranks second among cancer deaths in women after lung cancer.

What is cancer?

The body is made up of various kinds of cells, which normally divide in an orderly way to produce more cells only when they are needed. Cancer is a group of diseases – more than 100 types – that occur when cells become abnormal and divide without control or order.

What is a tumor?

When cells divide when new cells are not needed, too much tissue is formed. This mass of extra tissue, called a tumor, can be benign or malignant.

  • Benign tumors:
    • Are not cancer
    • Can usually be removed
    • Are rarely a threat to life
    • Do not come back in most cases
    • Do not spread to other parts of the body and the cells do not invade other tissues
  • Malignant tumors:
    • Are cancer
    • May be a threat to life
    • Can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs
    • Metastasize – cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system to form secondary tumors in other parts of the body

Risk factors that cannot be changed:

  • Gender. Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  • Race or ethnicity. It has been noted that white women develop breast cancer slightly more often than African-American women. However, African-American women tend to die of breast cancer more often. This is may be partly due to the fact that African-American women often develop a more aggressive type of tumor, although why this happens is not known. The risk for developing breast cancer and dying from it is lower in Hispanic, Native American, and Asian women.
  • Aging. Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Previous breast irradiation
  • Family history and genetic factors. Having a close relative, such as a mother or sister, with breast cancer increases the risk. This includes changes in certain genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and others.
  • Benign breast disease. Women with certain benign breast conditions (such as hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia) have an increased risk of breast cancer. 
  • Dense breast tissue. Breast tissue may look dense or fatty on a mammogram. Older women with dense breast tissue are at increased risk.
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure. Women who took this drug while pregnant (to lower the chance of miscarriage) are at higher risk. The possible effect on their daughters is under study.
  • Early menstrual periods. Women whose periods began early in life (before age 12) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Late menopause. Women are at a slightly higher risk if they began menopause later in life (after age 55).

The most frequently cited lifestyle-related risk factors:

  • Not having children, or having your first child after age 30
  • Recent use (within 10 years) of oral contraceptives
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol use (more than one drink per day)
  • Long-term, post-menopausal use of combined estrogen and progestin (HRT)*
  • Weight gain and obesity, especially after menopause

Environmental risk factors:

  • Exposure to pesticides, or other chemicals, is currently being examined as a possible risk factor.

Treatment may include:

  • Radiation therapy is a process that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. Radiation done after surgery can kill cancer cells that may not be seen during surgery. Radiation may also be done:
    • Before surgery to shrink the tumor
    • In combination with chemotherapy
    • As a palliative treatment (therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but does not alter the course of the disease)

    Radiation therapy is usually delivered by external beam radiation (also called external beam therapy). The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.

  • Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual.
  • Hormone therapy, in some cases, can kill cancer cells, slow the growth of cancer cells, or stop cancer cells from growing. Hormones help some types of cancer cells to grow, such as certain breast cancers and prostate cancer. Hormone therapy as a cancer treatment involves taking substances to interfere with the activity of hormones or to stop the production of hormones. Before you begin hormone therapy, your doctor will do a hormone receptor test. This lab test is performed on the cancerous tissue to see if estrogen and progesterone receptors are present.
  • Adjuvant therapy. This is radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy given after surgery for the removal of cancer. It is used to kill any cancer cells that cannot be seen.

Breast Cancer in Men

Breast cancer in men is rare – less than one percent of all breast carcinomas occur in men. Consider the latest statistics available from the American Cancer Society:

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 about 2,190 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in the U.S.
  • Breast cancer is about 100 times more common among women.
  • Estimates for 2012 also indicate that about 410 men in the U.S. will die from breast cancer.
  • The average age at diagnosis is about 68, although men of all ages can develop breast cancer.

What are risk factors for breast cancer in men?

  • Age
  • Radiation exposure
  • Estrogen treatment
  • Diseases associated with hyperestrogenism, such as cirrhosis or Klinefelter syndrome
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • Obesity

Also, there are definite familial tendencies for men developing breast cancer:

  • An increased incidence is seen in men who have a number of female relatives with breast cancer.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer in men?

  • Breast lumps
  • Nipple inversion
  • Nipple discharge (sometimes bloody)
  • A pain or pulling sensation in the breast
  • Skin or nipple changes such as dimpling, puckering, redness, or scaling

What are the similarities of breast cancer in men to breast cancer in women?

Overall survival is similar to that of women with breast cancer. The impression that male breast cancer has a poorer prognosis may be due to the fact that it’s often diagnosed at a later stage. The primary standard treatment is a modified radical mastectomy, just as it is with female breast cancer.