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Breast Cancer : The Top 10 Facts

The Top 10 facts
Early Detection Techniques
Breast Self-examination pointers
Points to Remember


Article by Dr. Houiya Kazim, Breast Cancer Specialist, Welcare Hospital LLC

Breast cancer is one of the most feared diseases among women. It is so common that most people know someone who has had the disease, and its causes remain mostly unknown. But there are things we do know that can help you understand the disease and protect yourself from it.

Breast Cancer: The Top 10 Facts

  • Breast cancer is common.
    Breast cancer rates are actually increasing in the west. In the developed world, about 1 woman in 10 will develop breast cancer. Every three minutes, somewhere in the United States, a new case of breast cancer is diagnosed, which works out to a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer kills.
    According to the American Cancer Society, 43,300 women in the United States died from breast cancer in 1999 (and 15,000 in the UK). It is the leading cause of cancer death for women aged 35 to 55. However, this is not as frightening as it sounds bearing in mind that 5 times more women suffer from the disease than die from it.
  • Every woman is at risk
    Some factors increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, such as entering menopause after age 50 or not having children. However, two-thirds of the women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors.
  • Early detection is the best method for successfully treating the disease.
    When breast cancer is found and treated in the early stages, the five-year survival rate is around 95 percent. And remember, the older you are the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. About 80 percent of invasive breast cancers turn up in women over 50. So it's a good idea for women to continue with mammograms, clinical exams and breast self-exams into their 70s and 80s.
  • Mammograms can help in the fight against breast cancer.
    The death rate from the disease could be reduced by one-third if every woman 50 and older who needed a mammogram had one. Having said so, mammograms miss at least 15 percent of breast cancers in this age group.
  • Breast cancer can recur any time.
    No matter how long ago a woman was treated for the disease, it may still return (to the same area or to another organ). Although around 95 percent of breast cancer patients live at least five years past their diagnosis, only half of them survive 20 years. However, the longer you go without a recurrence, the higher your chances get of staying cancer-free.
  • Eating right and exercising may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
    While a low-fat, high-fiber diet and regular exercise can't guarantee complete protection against the disease, they may reduce your risk of developing it.
  • Not smoking or drinking alcohol can improve your breast health.
    While most studies have not found either to be a cause of breast cancer, many have found a link between the two. And some research shows that smoking can hinder a woman's chances of surviving the disease after being diagnosed.
  • Men can develop breast cancer too.
    Thought to be about 1% of all breast cancers. In 1999, 1,300 male cases were diagnosed in the United States. About 400 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. Because of the smaller amount of breast tissue in men, lumps are more readily apparent, so the diagnosis can usually be made at an earlier stage than in women. However, the smaller amount of breast tissue also means that spread of the disease occurs early, so the prognosis tends to be worse in men.
  • About 3% of patients diagnosed as having breast cancer are pregnant or breast feeding at the time.
    The normal enlargement and feeling of fullness of the breast in pregnancy tends to mask any lumps that may also be present. Therefore, the disease is likely to present at a more advanced stage than the average, and it is probably this which is responsible for the admittedly poorer outlook of tumours diagnosed in pregnancy.

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Early Detection Techniques
The National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations recommends the following:

  1. A clinical breast exam by an experienced breast-care professional every year for women 20 and older.
  2. Monthly breast self-exams (BSE) for women 20 and older. Breast awareness is part of a general body awareness. It is a process of getting to know your own breasts and becoming familiar with their appearances. Learning how your breasts feel at different times will help you to know what is normal for you and to recognise any changes from the normal, should this occur. Remember, a large number of breast cancers are detected by women themselves.
  3. Annual mammograms for women 50 and older. A mammogram can help save your life. It can reveal the presence of a lump that is far too small to be found by touch. So even if BSE is regularly performed, it is still important to get a mammogram. Despite these facts, many women are still reluctant (or unable) to get regular mammograms, while study after study continues to show that they can help save your life. In countries that provide a national breast screening program, it has been found that 30% fewer lives were lost to breast cancer. However, the benefit of screening appears to be confined to women over the age of 50. In women under the age of 50, more than half of all breast lumps are detected by clinical examination and only 25% by mammography.
  4. Women with a family history of the disease should consult with their doctor about possible additional screenings starting at a younger age.

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Breast Self-examination pointers :

  • Breast cancer is one of the commonest cancers in women
  • Most breast cancers are discovered by the women themselves
  • Breast cancer found early and treated promptly has excellent chances for cure. Therefore, learning how to properly examine your breasts can help save your life
  • The best time to examine your breasts is 2 or 3 days after the end of your period, every month
  • After the menopause, check breasts on the first day of each month

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Remember:

  • It is normal for the breast to feel a little lumpy. It is only by regular examination and becoming familiar with your own breasts that you will be able to recognise changes in how they look or feel.
  • If you find a lump or change in your breast during self-examination, do not panic. Most breast lumps are not cancer but may still require treatment. Only a specialist can make the diagnosis.
  • Breast cancer is rare in women under the age of 40; neverthelsess, don't be afraid to raise a false alarm as early detection is your surest protection.
  • If you are worried, do not hesitate to contact a doctor

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