October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. First instituted in 1985 as a week-long awareness campaign, the initiative was pioneered by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in partnership with Imperial Chemical Industries Pharmaceuticals, now part of AstraZeneca. Pink became the international symbol of breast health in 1992. The color was popularized by Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of Estée Lauder, and Alexandra Penney, Editor-in-Chief of Self magazine, when they began distributing pink ribbons with the magazine's Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. The action was influenced by Lauder’s breast cancer diagnosis in 1989 and the lack of awareness of the subject. Evelyn Lauder's pursuit to create awareness also led her to establish the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993.
Every year, medical societies, federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations host special events and educational programs to create breast cancer awareness and raise funds to further cancer research. Many organizations also distribute free resources covering topics such as self-examination, early detection, signs and symptoms, treatment, and cancer-care guides on their online platform or in print form. The Omnigraphics’ Breast Cancer Sourcebook extensively covers types, risk factors, screening, and treatment of breast cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates 297,790 new cases of female breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and 43,170 breast cancer cases will result in death in 2023. Although uncommon, breast cancer can also occur in men, and Cancer.Net estimates that, in 2023, approximately 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cancer in the breast occurs from an overgrowth of cells and can develop in either one or both breasts. Breasts are made up of connective tissue, lobules, and ducts. The lobules are milk-producing glands, and the ducts are tubes that carry the milk to the nipple. The lobules and ducts are held together in place by the connective tissue. Breast cancers usually originate in the lobules or ducts but can spread to other areas of the breasts or other parts of the body. Advancement of breast cancer is classified into the following stages:
Signs of breast cancer differ from person to person, and may include the following:
Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer and makes up approximately 80 percent of all cancers in the country, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It starts in the ducts of the breast. Invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to the surrounding tissues or other parts of the body. Although IDC can develop at any age, it mainly occurs in females over the age of 55.
Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) makes up nearly 10 to 15 percent of breast cancer cases in the United States. It begins in the lobules of the breast and can spread to nearby tissues. The cancer can also metastasize to other parts of the body.
Less common types of breast cancer include:
A variety of environmental and genetic factors can cause breast cancer. While it's not possible to completely eliminate the risk of breast cancer, you can reduce your risk by following a few simple measures.
For more information on breast cancer prevention, visit National Cancer Institute.
Find more educational guides by the National Breast Cancer Foundation here.