The American Breast Cancer Society is committed to eliminating breast cancer by providing research, education, advocacy, and outreach. Their work is significant because in 2006 approximately 212,920 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Invasion breast cancer spreads from the layer of cells where it first began to tissue that is in close proximity. For instance, invasive breast cancer may start in the milk glands or passages and then spread to the fatty breast tissue.
In recent years, breast cancer rates have declined. This is most likely the result of earlier detection of the disease and better treatment. Organizations such as the American Breast Cancer Society have contributed to this decline. However, since approximately 40,970 women and 460 men will die from breast cancer in 2006, it is important for organizations, government entities, medical institutions, and individuals to continue the fight against this deadly disease.
One way to fight this disease is to understand how it works, learn the risk factors, and practice prevention strategies. Listed below is a summary of the kind of information that the American Breast Cancer Society provides.
Description of breast cancer: Cancer occurs because of the out-of-control growth and spread of abnormal cells that accumulate over time and form tumors. The tumors constrict, attack, and destroy normal tissue. Breast cancer is a tumor that begins in the cells of the breast, which consists of lobules (glands that make milk), ducts (tubes that connect lobules to the nipples), fatty and connective tissues, blood vessels, and lymph vessels. The five major types of cancer are listed below:
1. Carcinoma in situ, the early stage of breast cancer, forms in and is confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast.
2. Ductal carcinoma in situ is the most common type of non-invasive cancer (the cancer is confined to the ducts of the breast), and almost all women who are diagnosed with this stage of cancer can be cured. Mammograms are the most effective way to detect this type of cancer.
3. Lobular carcinoma in situ starts in and is confined to the lobules of the breast. Although lobular carcinoma is not considered a true cancer, it increases the chances that a woman will develop cancer later. Therefore, it is important that women with this condition follow the breast cancer screening guidelines.
4. Infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma accounts for approximately 80% of invasive breast cancers - thus making it the most common type of breast cancer. It starts in the duct, breaks through the wall of the duct, and attacks the fatty tissue of the breast. Once it reaches the fatty tissue, it can spread to other parts of the body.
5. Infiltrating (invasive) lobular carcinoma accounts for about 10% of all invasive breast cancers. It develops in the lobules of the breast and can spread to other parts of the body.
Risk factors associated with breast cancer: The cause of breast cancer is unknown. However, certain risk factors - conditions that increase a woman's chance of developing breast cancer - are linked to the disease. It is also important to keep in mind that having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that a woman will develop breast cancer. The following risk factors cannot be changed.
1. Gender: Women are 100 times more at-risk of developing breast cancer than men.
2. Age: Nearly 80% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over age 50.
3. Genetics: Approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancers are attributed to changes in genes such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with these gene mutations have up to an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.
4. Family history: Having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer doubles a woman's risk of developing the disease.
5. Race: White women have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than African American women; however, African American women are at higher risk of dying from the disease most likely because they have faster growing tumors. Asian, Latin, and Native American women are at a lower risk of developing the disease.
Certain factors that are associated with a woman's life style can be changed: For instance:
1. Women who do not have any children or do not have children before age 30 have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
2. Studies show that women who are currently using birth control pills have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
3. Using combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone together) for several years after menopause increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
4. Women who have one alcoholic beverage per day have a very small chance of developing breast cancer; and those who have two to five drinks per day are one-and-a-half times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who drink no alcohol.
5. According to some studies, breast feeding for one-and-a-half to two years slightly lowers the risk of breast cancer.
Preventive measures: Because the cause of breast cancer is unknown, there is no way to know for sure what will prevent it. However, it is possible that women who have an average risk of developing breast cancer can lower her risk to some extent by:
1. Giving birth to several children
2. Breast feeding children for several months
3. Not drinking alcoholic beverages
4. Exercising several times per week
5. Staying slim
6. Using early detection techniques and tests
7. Taking tests to determine if there are changes in genes linked to breast cancer
8. Taking tamoxifen (if at high risk of developing the disease)
9. Having a preventive mastectomy (only for women at high risk of developing the disease)
10. Visiting breast cancer information Web sites like the American Breast Cancer Society's
Breast cancer is a traumatic, life altering, and possibly life ending disease that all women (and some men) are at risk of developing. However, understanding family and medical history, making changes to one's lifestyle, practicing early detection techniques, and gathering information from organizations like the American Breast Cancer Society could decrease a woman's risk of developing the disease.