Breast Cancer: It’s Time to Become Aware


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink ribbons, the symbol for breast cancer, are everywhere – and with good reason. Here are some alarming statistics:

  • About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • This year, an estimated 231,840 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
  • An estimated 40,290 women will die from breast cancer this year.
  • Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death in women; only lung cancer claims more women’s lives.

Here is the good news!

Today, there are about three million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. – more than any other cancers.

To help reduce your risk of breast cancer, you can take these steps:

For women with an average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, an annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 and continuing for as long as she is in good health remains the recommendation of the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American College of Surgeons, the National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), as well as many other organizations.

Additionally, women age 40 and older should have an annual clinical breast exam by a trained healthcare professional. Those in their 20s and 30s are encouraged to perform breast self-exams monthly. It also is recommended that women be familiar with their breasts and promptly report any changes to their healthcare provider.

For women who have a high lifetime risk (20-25 percent or greater) of developing breast cancer as determined by their physician, the ACS recommends an annual MRI screening in addition to mammography beginning at 30 years of age.

Women who are at increased risk include:

  • Those who have an inherited genetic mutation for breast cancer (BRCA1 and 2)
  • Those with one first-degree relative with breast cancer
  • Those who have had high-dose radiation to the chest

Women with a moderate lifetime risk (15-20 percent), should discuss with their healthcare provider the benefits and limitations of adding MRI to an annual mammogram.

Moderate Risk

  • Personal history of breast cancer age 40 and over
  • Women who have extremely dense breasts

Screening mammography is known to decrease the number of women dying from breast cancer.


Mammography, however, has some potential negative effects that include:

  • Over-diagnosis and over-treatment: a woman might undergo treatment for a non-threatening tumor found by screening that would otherwise not have been discovered.
  • False-positive test results: could result in invasive follow-up testing, such as a breast biopsy, and potentially cause stress and anxiety.
  • False negative test results: could result in missed cancers.

Women should weigh all of the facts and discuss them with their healthcare provider before deciding to have a screening mammography.

Awareness of the factors that increase the risk of breast cancer development is key. The risks can be divided into two groups: modifiable and non-modifiable. Women are encouraged to adapt the modifiable risks as much as possible.


  • Age
  • Family history
  • Early menarche
  • Late menopause


  • Postmenopausal obesity
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy (combined estrogen/progestin hormones)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption

The most important aspect of breast health: awareness!


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