Over the years, the global awareness that has been raised through the pink ribbon has helped increase early detection of breast cancer, helped make women more aware of the importance of regular breast self-examinations, the value of understanding their risk factors, while also contributing to funding for a cure.
Beyond the pink ribbons, special product fundraisers, and pink pastel sea of color that marks October; Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers a reason to celebrate and to reflect.
Today, more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. They are survivors of the second most-common cancer in women, behind skin cancer, and survival rates continue to climb due to better treatments and increased screening that finds cancers when they are most treatable.
Whether you or a loved one are battling breast cancer, are a survivor of the disease, or have a family history but have yet to be diagnosed, it’s important to understand the facts surrounding breast cancer.
Breast Cancer- 31 Facts for the 31 Days in October
1. Breast cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer.
2. The leading risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. Though breast cancer does occur in men, the disease is 100 times more common in women than in men and women are at 200 times the risk of developing the disease compared to risk in men.
3. Most breast cancer – about 85 percent – occurs in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
4. Men can also get breast cancer. About 2,150 are diagnosed annually – or about 1 in 1,000 men.
5. A woman born today has about a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
6. The risk of overweight women developing breast cancer after menopause is 1.5 times higher than in lean women. Obese women are at twice the risk of lean women.
7. Not everyone needs genetic screening for breast cancer. Only about 2 percent of women meet the guidelines for screening.
8. It is estimated that 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread from the site where it started into surrounding, healthy breast tissue) will be diagnosed among women in the U.S. in 2017. In addition to invasive cancers, it is projected that 63,410 cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer will be diagnosed.
9. All breast cancers are not the same, just as breast tumors do not all grow at the same rate or spread in the same way.
10. Breast cancer deaths have been declining since 1990 thanks to early detection, better screening, increased awareness, and new treatment options.
11. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are being female and aging. About 95% of all breast cancers in the US occur in women 40 and older.
12. Getting a mammogram can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer by 30 to 40% among women ages 40 to 70.
13. Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
14. On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die from breast cancer every 13 minutes.
15. Breast cancer incidence rates are highest in non-Hispanic white women, followed by African American women and are lowest among Asian/Pacific Islander women.
16. About 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be caused by inherited gene mutations (abnormal changes passed through families).
17. The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.
18. The most common signs are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge.
19. Breast cancer occurs when cells divide and grow without their normal control.
20. Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells spread to nearby tissue or other parts of the body.
21. Invasive breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is called metastatic breast cancer.
22. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. (Some tumors are aggressive and grow much faster.)
23. Between 50-75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts, about 10-15 percent begin in the lobules and a few begin in other breast tissues.
24. Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it’s probably normal breast tissue.
25. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re up to four times more likely to develop a new cancer in the same breast or in the other breast.
26. With eight out of 10 breast lumps discovered by women themselves, don’t underestimate the importance of a monthly breast self-exam. By becoming more familiar with your breast tissue and appearance, you will be more likely to notice changes should they occur.
27. Quit smoking to control risk of many diseases, including breast cancer. Younger women who smoke have a higher risk of breast cancer than their nonsmoking peers.
28. Minimize alcohol intake to control risk. That means one glass of wine, one beer or one hard liquor drink per day. (Drinking seven drinks in one day and none the rest of the week is not OK.)
29. The movement away from one-size-fits all screening doesn’t mean you should skip your mammogram. Talk with your physician to evaluate your personal risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society continues to recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 40.
30. Breast pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is to see a provider and get checked.
31. If you have breast cancer, it’s best to find it at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.