Knowing the Facts About Breast Cancer Saves Lives

All women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Because the cause is unknown and there is no cure, knowing the facts about breast cancer can save lives. One important fact: early detection is the best defense against dying from the disease and living a long life. Breast cancer is a frightening and devastating illness. However, understanding the disease, living a healthy lifestyle, knowing the risk factors, and practicing early detection are essential to combating the disease.

Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, will claim the lives of approximately 40,970 women and 460 men in 2006; and nearly 213,000 women and 1,720 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.  Invasive breast cancer spreads from the cells where it developed to other parts of the breast or body.  Although breast cancer death rates are declining, most likely because of early detection and improved treatment, a woman's chance of developing invasive breast cancer during her lifetime is 1 in 8.  Research, public awareness and education, early detection, preventive measures, and better treatment, are helping to save lives. However, one of the most important facts about breast cancer is that there is no cure. Yet, knowing the facts on breast cancer can help those at risk better protect themselves against the disease.

Important facts about breast cancer

Risk Factors

Most women have more than one risk factor for developing breast cancer.  A risk factor is any condition or behavior that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.  However, it is important to note that having one or multiple breast cancer risk factors does not mean that a woman (or man) will develop the disease.  Some of the most common risk factors include:

• Being a woman of any age
• Getting older (40 and over)
• Having a personal history of breast conditions including cancer or ovarian cancer
• Having a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast cancer
• Onset of menstruation before age 12
• Never having children or having the first child after age thirty
• Inheriting a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer genes
• Having more than one alcoholic beverage per day

Breast cancer prevention

The cause of breast cancer is unknown. However, a woman's lifetime exposure to estrogen and age at the time of the birth of her first child play significant roles.  Because the cause of breast cancer is not known, there is no definite way to prevent it.  However, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining emotional health may decrease the risk of developing the disease.

Surviving breast cancer

Another one of the most important facts about breast cancer is that early detection is the best defense against dying from the disease.  Studies have shown that a mammogram, a special x-ray used to detect abnormal changes in the breast, can detect a lump in the breast before it can be felt.  Detecting breast cancer in this early stage makes it more likely that the cancer will be confined to the breast, thus increasing the chances of long-term survival.

Knowing the facts about breast cancer can save lives

The basic facts on breast cancer are very clear: there is no cure for breast cancer; the cause of breast cancer is unknown; certain factors can increase a person's chance for developing the disease; and early detection is crucial for preventing recurrence of the disease and long-term survival.

The thought of developing breast cancer is terrifying, however knowing the facts about breast cancer can help women and men take the necessary steps to prevent or detect the disease in its earliest stages - thus increasing the chances of living a long, healthy life.

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