Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, with about a quarter million new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Each October, breast cancer awareness month promotes awareness of the disease and the need for more research into cures, as well as to celebrate breakthroughs in treatment that helped create more than 3 million survivors in the U.S.
One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Although it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, it’s important to note that the relative five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99 percent for those diagnosed before the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Although it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, it’s important to note that the relative five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99 percent for those diagnosed before the cancer has spread outside of the breast. While the disease occurs most frequently in women, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year. Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remain the single most effective way for combating the disease.
The chance of an individual developing cancer depends on many factors, including genetics, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle influences. Risk factors include:
Age: Most invasive breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
Family History: Women with an immediate family member (mother, sister, daughter) who has had breast cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. Having close male relatives with the disease also increases risk. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing may help determine your risk.
Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast Conditions: Women with dense breast tissue and some benign breast conditions are at higher risk.
Some women are at higher risk and should consider additional steps to protect their health.
Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physicians. If genetic tests indicate a woman is BRCA-positive, there are several risk reduction strategies to discuss with her physician.
Women with a first degree relative who had breast cancer before age 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.
There are steps women can take to help prevent cancer. About 20 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented through maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, practicing healthy nutrition, and being physically active. Because people can change living habits, the opportunity to prevent cancer is within our grasp.
These guidelines can help you maintain good nutrition:
Aim to eat at least two-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
Reduce intake of foods preserved with salt and high in fat, as well as red meat and avoid processed meats.
Limit sugary drinks and energy-dense foods.
Opt for whole grains instead of processed or refined grains.
Limit alcohol consumption. Women should have no more than one drink per day.
Screening and Early Detection
Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but women can take steps to decrease risk and improve early detection of the disease.
Women should check their breasts monthly and report any changes to a physician immediately.
Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years.
Women in their 30s should discuss their breast cancer risk level with a physician to determine the most appropriate cancer screening options, including mammograms and MRI screenings.
Women age 40 and older should discuss individual risk factors with a physician to determine recommended timing and most appropriate screenings, including annual mammogram, annual clinical breast exam, and annual MRI screening.
Women age 50 and older should have a mammogram and a clinical breast exam at least every two years after discussion with her physician, and if recommended by a physician, an annual MRI screening.
Breast Cancer Research
With more discoveries about how cancer cells work, researchers are developing new ways to target them, interrupting the signals they send and receive to control growth, and harnessing a patient’s immune system to fight cancer with fewer side effects. Through Texas Oncology’s clinical trial programs, women in McAllen are benefitting from some of the most promising trials, without having to leave their family and friends close to home.
In addition to enabling patients to stay near their communities of support, Texas Oncology helps patients address needs beyond cancer. This includes providing information about the importance of nutrition and exercise, and working with community organizations, volunteers, and support groups.
Overall, treatment advances combined with greater awareness of prevention and screenings have led to this remarkable outcome: When cancer is located only in the breast the survival rate is 99 percent. That means more patients are getting the good news that they are cancer free – important progress and hope represented so visibly in pink each October.
Continued Community Support
As part of Texas Oncology’s continued efforts to support cancer patients and caregivers in the community, Texas Oncology–McAllen is hosting several events throughout the month of October. On October 13, Texas Oncology will host the inaugural Cancerathlon Annual Symposium. Several physicians will be presenting on the advances in cancer care and technology in oncology. Healthcare professionals and the public are welcome to join. To register, visit https://mve.webconnex.com/texas10day1.
The symposium leads up to the much anticipated 10th Annual McAllen Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, Run, & Ride on October 14. This event was established in McAllen in 2007, and raises funds for cancer patients and survivors. No matter your fitness level, it’s a great opportunity to join the fight against cancer with a 2.5 or 4.5 mile walk, a 5K run, or a 20/40/60 mile bike ride. There are a variety of activities and plenty of volunteer options, so that everyone can join in the event. Learn more or register to participate at https://mve.webconnex.com/texas10
Texas Oncology–McAllen is also sponsoring the One Night One Cause: Beat Breast Cancer benefit concert at 7 p.m. on October 27 at the Havana Club.
Alvaro Restrepo, M.D., Texas Oncology is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology– McAllen, 1901 South 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas.