The American Cancer Society estimates that close to 290,000 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and almost 40,000 people died from it. Being familiar with how your own breasts feel will help you notice any unusual changes.
Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal breast cells. There are two types of breast cancer: non-invasive (also called in situ), which does not spread to surrounding tissues, and invasive, which is more serious and can spread to other parts of the body. While both men and women can get breast cancer, it is one of the most common kinds of cancer in women, and is the most common cancer in African American women. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.
- Age: The risk of developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages. It is important to note, however, that African American women are at risk of developing breast cancer at an earlier age than Caucasian women.
- Race: Although white women are more likely to develop breast cancer, black women are more likely to die from the disease. This is in part due to developing the disease earlier, as well as having more aggressive types of breast cancer. Additionally, people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent appear to have higher rates of two genes that predispose individuals to developing breast cancer.
- Personal and Family History: Previous history of breast cancer, a history of endometrial or ovarian cancer, as well as a family history of breast or ovarian cancer all increase risk of getting breast cancer.
- Reproductive History and Pregnancy: An early start of menses (before 12 years), late menopause (after 55 years), and women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 30 or no full-term pregnancy at all have a higher risk of breast cancer. Recent use of oral contraceptives and recent, long-term use of hormonal therapies for menopause are also likely to increase the risk of breast cancer. Many women who partner with women may have a higher risk for cancer because they are more likely to have children later (35 years and older) and/or are less likely to bear children.
- Lifestyle Factors: Obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol use (more than one alcoholic drink per day) all contribute to an increase in risk of breast cancer. African American lesbians and women who partner with women are more likely to be obese than white women, and are therefore more at risk for breast cancer.
- Other Factors: Environmental factors and some medications may affect risk. Some birth control pills can increase risk of breast cancer, as well as taking certain forms of hormone replacement therapy over a long period of time.
Breast cancer symptoms vary widely — from lumps to swelling to skin changes — and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all. Symptoms that are similar to those of breast cancer may be the result of non-cancerous conditions like an infection or a cyst.
Prevention: Practice Breast Self-Awareness
Mautner Project has adapted Susan G. Komen's recommendation called "Breast Self-Awareness" for better breast health, the steps to which can be found here and on Komen's website.
Treatment:The treatment that you receive may depend on the stage of breast cancer that you are in. Different treatment options include:
- Lumpectomy: Removing the lump found in or around the breast.
- Mastectomy: Removing all breast tissue.
- Lymph node removal: May occur if there is evidence that cancer has spread outside of the breast.
- Chemotherapy: Medicine used to weaken and destroy the cancer cells in the body.
- Radiation therapy: Use high radiation beams to destroy cancer cells in the breast.
- Hormone therapy: Using hormones to reduce or stop estrogen, which can promote certain breast cancer formation.
- Targeted therapy: Therapy used to target certain aspects of the cancer cells in order to destroy them.
Barriers to Care: Sexual Minority Women (SMW) have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because they are more likely to smoke and drink alcoholic beverages, less likely to bear children, and sometimes neglect breast examinations and mammograms, in part due to fear of discrimination they may face from their health care providers or lack of adequate health insurance.
If diagnosed at an early stage, breast cancer has an encouraging survival rate – up to 99% of women diagnosed with localized breast cancer survive after five years. The best chance of surviving breast cancer is early detection through regular self-breast examinations, clinical breast examinations by health care providers, and annual mammograms.
If you would like more information on breast health and breast cancer, please send us an email at email@example.com.
American Cancer Society. “Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2011-2012.” Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
American Cancer Society. “Nutrition and Cancer.” 2007. Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
“Symptoms and Diagnosis.” Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Self Awareness / Breast Self Exam shower card. Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
Mautner Project. “Making the Journey: A Wellness Guide for Black Women Who Love Women—Breast Cancer.” S.H.E. Circle Brochure.
National Cancer Institute. “Menopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy Use and Cancer.” Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
Szabo, Liz. “Women weigh heart-healthy alcohol, breast cancer risk.” USA Today. Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from:
Westchestergov.com. “Breast Cancer - LGBT Health.” Retrieved on July 18, 2012 from: http://health.westchestergov.com/index.php? option=com_content&task=view&id=1747&Itemid=3091