Know Cancer

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  • Breast Cancer

    Breast Cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death affecting North American women. Around the globe, breast cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death. This disease also affects men, but breast cancer is diagnosed 100 times less frequently in men than it is in women.

    Breast cancer develops when cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the breast. In conversational usage, the word “breast” is used to identify the part of a woman’s body that contains the mammary glands (glands that produce milk to feed infants). In medical usage, the word “breast” identifies the upper portion of the human torso.

    Learn more about the symptoms of breast cancerbreast cancer stages and breast cancer treatment. You can also check out the National Breast Cancer Foundation for more info.

    Men and women have breasts that arise from the same embryological tissue. During puberty, estrogen and other sex hormones promote breast development in females. As a result, the adult female breast is a more prominent structure than the male breast.

    (See also: Breast Cancer DrugsBreast Cancer Awareness MonthBreast Cancer Research, Breast Cancer Organizations and Breast Cancer Statistics)

    Breast Cancer Risk Factors

    Most risk factors associated with the various types of breast cancer, such as age and gender, cannot be avoided. Other risk factors, such as tobacco use, lack of exercise, and a poor diet, are the effects of lifestyle choices.

    Breast cancer’s single greatest risk factor is being female. Other than this unavoidable quality, most breast cancers are diagnosed in the absence of any recognizable risk factors.

    Common risk factors of breast cancer include:

    • Gender: Women are almost 100 times more likely to develop this disease than men.
    • Age: Approximately 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Women over the age of 85 have a 1 in 8 chance of developing the disease.
    • Family History: If you have a mother, sister, or daughter who developed breast cancer before age 50, your chances of developing the disease are doubled. Statistics also indicate that your breast cancer risk is elevated if you have any extended relatives, male or female, who have been diagnosed with the disease. In spite of familial risks, most breast cancer diagnoses are attributed to random, non-inherited cancer.
    • Radiation Exposure: One of the side effects of radiation treatment, or radiotherapy, is elevated cancer risk. This risk is more serious if you received the treatment during breast development (adolescence).
    • Obesity: Statistics indicate that obese women are more likely to develop breast cancer than women of a healthy weight.
    • Pregnancy Late in Life: Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after age 30 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
    • No Pregnancy: Women who have never become pregnant are more likely to develop breast cancer.
    • Ethnicity: Caucasian women develop more breast cancers than women of any other race or ethnicity. Black women, however, are the most likely to die as a result of breast cancer.
    • Tobacco Use: Studies have produced mixed results regarding the link between breast cancer and smoking, but limiting your exposure to tobacco smoke will undoubtedly improve the quality of your health.
    • Early Menstruation: Women who began menstruating before age 12 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
    • Late Menopause: Women who enter menopause after age 55 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
    • Birth Control: Some evidence suggests that breast cancer development may be related to the long-term use of birth control pills.
    • Alcohol Consumption: Studies suggest that women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day are 20% more likely to develop breast cancer.
    • Breast Density: Breasts that are described as “dense” can make breast cancer diagnosis more difficult. Dense breast tissue looks solid and white (similar to a tumor) in most imaging tests, such as an x-ray. Furthermore, dense breast tissue can be difficult to distinguish from a tumor during a mammogram.
    • Hormone Therapy: Menopausal symptoms are often treated with a hormone combination of estrogen and progesterone. This hormone treatment may elevate your breast cancer risk.

    Breast Cancer Outlook

    The outlook for breast cancer patients depends on the size, location, and behavior of the tumor, as well as the patient’s overall health. Because breast cancer diagnoses are so common, it is one of the most deadly cancers affecting women around the world.
    Approximately 88% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will live for ten years after the diagnosis. Learn more about breast cancer survival rates.

    Breast Cancer Prevention

    It is very difficult to prevent a disease that typically occurs in the absence of risk factors. Here are a few measures that may be observed to help prevent breast cancer:

    • Consume Alcohol in Moderation: A clear link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer has been established. To reduce your risk, limit your alcohol consumption to one beverage per day.
    • Diet and Exercise: Eat a balanced diet of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as meats that are low in fats and nitrates. Find an exercise routine that complements your body and schedule. Healthy diet and exercise will reduce breast cancer risk and improve your overall health.
    • Cook with Olive Oil: Olive oils primary component, oleic acid, has been shown to suppress the development of breast cancer. Oleic acid also supports the effectiveness of many anti-cancer drugs.
    • Preventive Surgery: This is an extreme measure designed to complement high-risk women:
    • Prophylactic Mastectomy: This is the surgical removal of one or both breasts. This option is worthy of consideration if you have already had cancer in one breast or you have received results from genetic tests that indicate a high-level of breast cancer risk.
    • Prophylactic Oophorectomy: This is the surgical removal of the ovaries. Typically, this procedure is used to prevent or treat ovarian cancer, but it also reduces breast cancer risk.
    • Chemoprevention: A class of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk in high-risk women. Examples of these drugs include Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and Raloxifene (Evista).