Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is considered a varied or diverse disease—differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves. Obviously, no woman wants to receive this diagnosis, but hearing the words
“Breast cancer” doesn’t always mean an end. It can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts, and finding hope.
Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women.
Each year it is estimated that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die. Approximately 1,700 men will also be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die each year. The evaluation of men with breast masses is similar to that in women, including mammography.
Often, there are no symptoms of breast cancer, but signs of breast cancer can include a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a variety of breast cancer treatments. There are different types of breast cancer. In addition, breast cancer in men is not uncommon and male breast cancer must be taken seriously.
An Early Breast Cancer Detection Plan should include:
- Beginning at age 20: Performing breast self-exams and looking for any signs of change. Clearly it is very unlikely that a 20 year old will get breast cancer, but the point here is to get to know your breasts so you notice change.
- Age 20 to 39: Scheduling clinical breast exams every three years.
- By the age of 40: Having a baseline mammogram and annual clinical breast exams.
- Ages 40 to 49: Having a mammogram every one to two years depending on previous findings. If you happen to have a first degree female relative develop breast cancer, your first screening exam should be 10 years prior to their age of diagnosis.
- Ages 50 and older: Having a mammogram every year.
- Recording personal exams, mammograms and doctors’ appointments on a calendar or in a detailed file.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, following a low-fat diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption.
Patients must understand that a negative screening mammogram does not guarantee freedom from disease. As many as 15% of cancers are not visible on screening mammography. If you or your doctor feel a lump, it should never be ignored, even if the mammogram is normal. Some other test should be done.
You can take control of your healthcare by developing an early detection plan and encouraging others to do the same. Remember—early detection saves lives!