cancer -- what's the problem?
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Ga. -- After skin cancer, breast cancer is the
most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States.
Approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each
year, and 40,000 are estimated to die from their disease each year.
Men can get breast cancer too; an estimated 1,500 men in this
country are diagnosed each year.
Who's at risk?
Simply being a woman and getting older puts you
at some risk for breast cancer. Your risk for breast cancer
continues to increase over your lifetime. Several factors can
further increase your risk for breast cancer, including:
- Personal history of breast cancer -- If a woman has had
cancer in one breast. she is at increased risk for
developing it in her other breast.
- Family history -- A woman is at increased risk if her
mother, sister or daughter has had the disease.
- Cellular irregularities -- If a woman has had certain
cellular changes like atypical hyperplasia or lobular
carcinoma in situ, she is at increased risk.
- Genetic changes -- Presence of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2
indicate a woman's predisposition to develop breast cancer.
- Women who began menstruation at an early age (under 12
years old), had children later in life or not at all,
experienced late menopause, or took hormone replacement
therapy may be at increased risk.
Can it be prevented?
Women should talk to their health care providers about their
chance of developing breast cancer. Women who have any risk factors
for breast cancer should talk to their health care providers about
when to begin and how often they should be screened for breast
cancer. Mammography is the best way to detect breast cancer in its
earliest, most treatable stage -- an average of one to three years
before a woman can feel the lump. Mammography also locates cancers
too small to be felt during a clinical breast examination.
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The bottom line
Breast cancer is the second-most-common cancer in women.
Every woman is at risk for breast cancer.
The incidence of breast cancer increases with age
beginning after age 40.
Breast cancer can be detected at an early, treatable
With early detection, breast cancer can be effectively
treated with surgery that preserves the breast and with
follow-up radiation therapy. Chemotherapy and hormonal
therapy are often given also. According to the American
Cancer Society, based on data through 1997, 63 percent of
breast cancers are discovered at an early stage -- before
the cancer has spread. The five-year survival rate following
treatment for early-stage breast cancer is 96 percent.
Kathy and Casey are 25-year-old twins. Their mother died at age
40 years from breast cancer. Kathy has read about the possible
genetic link to breast cancer. She suggests to Casey that they talk
to their doctor about their risk of getting breast cancer and when
they should begin mammography. Casey is reluctant -- she's not sure
she wants to know -- but does know Kathy is right. They make an
appointment to go to the doctor together. Their doctor advises them
to begin getting mammograms earlier than the recommended baseline at
40 years of age. Both Kathy and Casey set up appointments for their
first mammograms. Kathy's results show a small tumor in her right
breast. A biopsy and further tests show that it is malignant but
appears to be localized. Because Kathy was aware of her risk and
took recommended actions, her cancer was detected in the early stage
when it is most treatable.
[Centers for Disease Control and