Breast cancer affects about 1 in 8 women and 1 in 1,000 men in the United States over the course of their lifetime, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, according to the National Cancer Institute. While breast cancer is most often found in women who are age 50 and older, the disease can also affect younger women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women under the age of 45.
“With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women,” said Kelly Ray, KentuckyOne Health Breast Care. “It is also the leading cause of death among Hispanic women.”
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is quickly approaching in October, and KentuckyOne Health Breast Care is encouraging all women, regardless of age, to learn more about breast cancer risk factors and what they can do to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. While the development of breast cancer in any one individual remains unpredictable, many factors can influence a person’s overall risk for the disease, so it’s important to take action at an early age.
Women who are younger than 45-years-old are at a higher risk of breast cancer if they have close family members who were diagnosed with breast cancer, are related to breast cancer gene mutation carriers, were treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest at an early age, or have had breast cancer previously or other breast health problems.
Additional factors can also increase your breast cancer risk, including being overweight, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol, smoking, menstruating before age 12, exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, and refraining from breastfeeding your child.
There are two screening options that may be recommended for breast cancer, including 2D digital mammography and tomosynthesis. With traditional 2D digital mammography, the brightness level and image contrast can be adjusted by the radiologist on the monitor to get a better view of different areas of breast tissue. Tomosynthesis, more commonly known as 3D mammography, creates multiple slices of the breast tissue, giving physicians a clearer view of a hidden mass that may be obscured by dense, overlapping breast tissue.
The American College of Radiology recommends that women begin annual mammogram screenings starting at age 40 – even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. Breast cancer death rates have decreased nearly 40 percent since 1990 as a result of screenings and better treatment, according to the American College of Radiology.
Treatment options for breast cancer will depend on how advanced the cancer is at diagnosis, but most often includes removal of the cancer through a breast-conserving lumpectomy or mastectomy if necessary (removing the entire breast), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted hormone therapy.
“Those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer before are three to four times more likely to develop a new cancer in the other breast or somewhere else in the same breast,” said Richard Budde, MD, radiologist, KentuckyOne Health Breast Care. “To help catch a lesion between screenings, women should regularly self-examine both breasts every month, looking for lumps or a change in the size, shape, appearance or contour of their breasts.”
By the age of 30, women should talk to their physicians about when it is appropriate to begin annual breast cancer screenings. For those women considered at high risk for breast cancer, it’s important to learn about early testing, possibly beginning in one’s 30s. High risk screening MRI coupled with annual mammography can often find breast cancer at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.
KentuckyOne Health offers KentuckyOne Health Breast Care, which provides 3D Mammography imaging in numerous locations. To find the nearest location, call 859.986.6587, or visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/breast-care.