October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a global and annual campaign to help increase awareness and promote early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer is a common cancer affecting hundreds of thousands of women every year. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer for American women, with 1 in 8 receiving the diagnosis. Over 42,000 Americans die each year from breast cancer.
As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women annually. Most breast cancers are found in women over 50 years old. Men also get breast cancer, but it’s far less common. About one out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in a man.
Overall death rates in the U.S. from breast cancer have declined over time, resulting from more people being screened with better screening technology such as 3-D mammography (breast tomosynthesis)—an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast—and improved treatments. There has been a 42% decline in breast cancer deaths over the last 30 years. However, there is a persistent mortality gap between Black women and white women. ACS data indicates that, although breast cancer rates among Black and white women are close, mortality rates are quite different, with Black women having a 41% higher death rate from breast cancer. Breast cancer remains as the second leading cause of cancer death among women overall and the number one leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women. Screening (mammogram) and early detection are critical in providing the best chance of successful treatment.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
There are different symptoms of breast cancer, and some people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms can include:
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your doctor.
Other than tobacco use, which is known to cause cancer throughout the body, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are body weight, diet, and physical activity. The American Cancer Society notes that at least 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are related to excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, which can all be prevented.
Risk factors you can’t change:
Risk factors you can change:
Key American Cancer Society recommendations for cancer prevention:
By understanding your risk, getting regular screenings, and doing your best to maintain healthy lifestyle choices, you can decrease the risk of developing or dying from cancer. These healthy behaviors are also linked with a lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.