Breast cancer research is an ongoing global initiative. Medical centers around the world are studying the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer. Their efforts have led to breakthroughs in the following arenas:
causes of breast cancer
- Smoking and Breast Cancer: On April 24, 2009, an international panel of researchers demonstrated that smoking is causally linked to breast cancer.
- Lifestyle Choices: Research has uncovered links between breast cancer development and certain lifestyle choices. The effects of weight gain or loss, diet, and exercise on breast cancer are the objects of ongoing research.
- Genetics: Research has determined that BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are causally linked to breast cancer.
- The Sister Study: The Sister Study is a long-term study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The study will follow 50,000 women for at least 10 years. In doing so, researchers will obtain volumes of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental data. This data will help researchers identify the causes of breast cancer. For more information on the Sister Study, call 1.877.4.SISTER (1.877.474.7837) or go to www.sisterstudy.org.
breast cancer prevention
Chemoprevention: Several studies have indicated that selective estrogen-receptor modulators (SERMs) may reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk. Common SERMs include tamoxifen and raloxifene. These medicines may induce a wide variety of potentially serious side effects. As a result, chemoprevention is typically reserved for women with certain breast cancer risk factors. For more information about medicines used to reduce breast cancer risk, visit the American Cancer Society.
detecting breast cancer
- Scintimammography: In this procedure, a radioactive tracer known as technetium sestamibi is injected into one of the patient’s veins. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by breast cancer cells. A special camera is used to observe whether or not the absorption takes place. Scintimammography research is ongoing and aimed at improving the imaging technology needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
- Tomosynthesis (3-D Mammography): In this procedure, a woman lies facedown on an examination table. The table has a hole in it through which on of the woman’s breasts will hang. An x-ray machine rotates around the hanging breast, capturing images from several angles. These images allow the breast to be viewed as many, thin slices, which can be assembled into a single 3-D picture.
- MRI-Assisted Breast Biopsy: This procedure allows physicians to obtain several tissue samples through a single small incision. With the aid of local anesthesia and an MRI machine for guidance, this diagnostic test makes it possible to study breast tissues in the laboratory without having to make invasive incisions.
breast cancer treatment
- Hypofractionated Radiation: Researchers are studying the effects of larger daily doses of radiation administered over a shorter period of time. Standard radiation schedules nvolve administering smaller doses of radiation over an extended period of time. Studies indicate that high-dose radiation over 3 weeks is about as effective as a traditional 5-weel radiation regimen.
- Vitamin D: A recent study identified a link between vitamin D deficiencies and cancer recurrence. More research is needed to better understand the effects of vitamin D on breast cancer.
breast cancer resources
The following medical centers, nonprofit organizations, and other health organizations are committed to breast cancer awareness, treatment, and an eventual cure. The fruits of their labor are evident in the steadily climbing survival rates for breast cancer patients, improved treatment options, more precise diagnostic procedures, and an ever-expanding understanding of breast cancer’s many causes.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer occurs when cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis (spread) arise in the breast. This uncontrolled growth is the result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating cell development and cell death (apoptosis). Under normal circumstances, these genes tell our cells to multiply and die according to regimented, sustainable guidelines. When cancerous mutations occur, however, breast cells divide without control or order, which results in the formation of structures known as tumors.
Breast Cancer Statistics and Figures
- In 2011, approximately 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in the United States alone. Approximately 54,010 cases of non-invasive breast cancer were diagnosed.
- Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States.
- Breast cancer incidences decreased by 3.5% per year in the United States from 2001 to 2004. One theory suggest that this decline was the result of less women using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the Women’s Health Initiative (a large study) identified a possible link between HRT and breast cancer development.
- Besides lung cancer, more women will die from breast cancer than from any other cancer.
- Besides skin cancer, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer than with any other cancer.
Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer. African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women are less likely to develop and die from breast cancer than Caucasian and African American women.
A woman’s breast cancer risk doubles if she has an immediate relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer. About 20-30% of breast cancer diagnoses are associated with a family history of breast cancer.