October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month and if it saves just one life it was worth it. Breast cancer gets a lot of attention but still the number of breast cancer cases has not decreased as far as professionals hoped.  Let’s have a look at some facts about breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Facts

  • In women the biggest risk factor is increasing age – approximately 81% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50
  • The number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer is increasing but survival rates are also increasing as a result of earlier detection and better treatment options.
  • Breast cancer also affects men, although it is rare.

Breast Cancer Fiction

Five years past diagnosis means I’ve got the ‘all clear’. As well as potentially experiencing long-term side effects of treatment, patients face uncertainty that their cancer can return anytime.

Stress causes breast cancer. Studies have found no direct link between stress and breast.

Breast cancer is mainly a hereditary disease. Breast cancer can run in families, but fewer than 10% of breast cancer cases are genetic.

 

The Stats

Let’s look at breast cancer stats around the world.

In the UK:

  • Nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.
  • That’s 1 person every 10 minutes diagnosed with breast cancer
  • In the UK just over 12,000 people die from breast cancer annually
  • Breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death from cancer for women.
  • An estimated 550,000 people living in the UK today who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer
  • In women under the age of 35, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer.

In Scotland:

  • Just over 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Scotland annually.
  • Around 1,000 people die each year from breast cancer
  • 1.4% of women in Scotland have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In Wales:

  • Just over 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Wales
  • Annually there were 627 deaths from breast cancer in 2008.

In the US

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older.
  • About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
  • About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

 

In Canada

  • On average, 445 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every week, an increase of 9 women per week from 2009.
  • Approximately 19% of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women under age 50.
  • Approximately 28% will be diagnosed in women over age 70.
  • Over 50% of breast cancers will be diagnosed in women between ages 50 and 69.

 Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is a risk factor. This does not mean that you will get cancer and not having a risk factor does not mean you will not get cancer. Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Older age.
  • Menstruating at an early age.
  • Older age at first birth
  • Never having given birth.
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Personal history of benign breast disease.
  • A mother or sister with breast cancer.
  • Treatment with radiation to the breast or chest.
  • Breast tissue that is dense on a mammogram.
  • Taking hormones.
  • Drinking alcohol

Testing for Breast Cancer

Tests that examine the breasts are used to detect and diagnose breast cancer. You should see your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.

  • Physical exam and history
  • Clinical breast exam: An exam of the breast by a doctor or other health professional.
  • Mammogram
  • Ultrasound exam
  • MRI
  • Blood chemistry studies
  • Biopsy
    • Excisional biopsy: The removal of an entire lump of tissue.
    • Incisional biopsy: The removal of part of a lump or a sample of tissue.
    • Core biopsy: The removal of tissue using a wide needle.
    • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: The removal of tissue or fluid, using a thin needle.

What Happens if Breast Cancer is Found?

If cancer is found, tests are done to study the cancer, and then to determine the best treatment plan. Your oncologist will run tests to see how quickly your cancer is growing, the likelihood of that cancer spreading through your body, how well the treatments work, and the likihood of reoccurring.

Tests include the following:

  • Estrogen and progesterone receptor test: A test to measure the amount of estrogen and progesterone hormones receptors in cancer tissue. If there are more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal, the cancer may grow more quickly. The test results show whether treatment to block estrogen and progesterone may stop the cancer from growing.
  • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptor (HER2/neu) test: A laboratory test to measure how many HER2/neu genes there are and how much HER2/neu protein is made in a sample of tissue.
  • Multigene tests: Samples of tissue are studied to look at the activity of many genes at the same time. These tests may help predict whether your cancer will spread to other parts of the body.

Prognosis

The prognosis and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer, the tumor size, and whether the lymph noted are affected.
  • The type of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
  • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
  • How fast the tumor is growing.
  • How likely the tumor is to recur.
  • A woman’s age, general health, and menopausal status.
  • Whether the cancer is recurring.

While there have been some major improvements in treatment and increased awareness means earlier detection, there is still a long ways to go.

Sources:
1) http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
2)http://findinghope.cbcf.org/2010/08/04/2010-canadian-breast-cancer-statistics-announced/
3)http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/news/media-centre/case-studies