About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer where cells in the breast tissue divide and grow without normal control. It is a widespread and random disease, striking women and men of all ages and races. It is the most prevalent cancer in the world today, with about 1.3 million people diagnosed annually. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, and at this time, there is no cure.

But there is hope. Thanks to heightened awareness, early detection through screening, improved treatment methods and increased access to breast health services, people have a greater chance of survival than ever before.

The global website of Susan G. Komen®, komen.org, offers comprehensive information about breast cancer risk factors, early detection and screening, diagnosis and treatment. Developed in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health, the site offers a one-stop resource for all the latest information on the disease.

Cancer Facts & Figures in the U.S.

  • It is estimated that in 2017 there will be a total of 255,180 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
  • Of those, 2,470 cases are estimated to be found in men and 252,710 in women
  • It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime
  • Overall, the five-year survival rate for all stages of breast cancer is 89%
  • The five-year survival rate for local breast cancer occurrence, or breast cancer confined to the breast, is 99%
  • In 2017, about 40,610 women and 460 men are expected to die from breast cancer in the U.S.

According to Cancer.org, the breast cancer incidence rate has decreased almost 7% among white women from 2002-03.  From 2007-11, breast cancer incidence rates were stable in white women and increased slightly in black women.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women.  Death rates for breast cancer have steadily decreased in women; from 2007-11, rates among women younger than 50 decreased by 3.2% per year in whites and 2.4% per year in blacks.  Rates for women 50 and older decreased by 1.8% per year in whites and by 1.1% per year in blacks.  The decrease in breast cancer death rates can be attributed to improvements in both early detection and treatment.

Cancer Facts and Figures In Michigan

  • In Michigan, it is estimated that there will be 8,150 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women in 2016
  • Of those cases, it is estimated that 1,410 will be fatal

All facts and figures are taken from www.cancer.org.  For more complete data, visit their webpage here.

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Due to the increased use of mammography, most women in the United States are diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer, before symptoms appear. However, not all breast cancers are found through mammography. The most common symptoms of breast cancer are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge. Warning signs you should be aware of are listed below:

If you have any of these symptoms, see your health care provider. In most cases, these changes are not cancer. For example, breast pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is to see your provider. If breast cancer is present, it is best to find it at an early stage, when the cancer is most treatable.

Breast lumps or lumpiness

Many women may find that their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture. For some women, the lumpiness is more pronounced than for others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry.

If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it is probably normal breast tissue. Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern. When this type of lump is found, it may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition (such as a cyst or fibroadenoma). Learn more about benign breast conditions.

See your health care provider if:

  • You find a new lump or any change that feels different from the rest of your breast.
  • You find a new lump or any change that feels different from your other breast.
  • Feel something that is different from what you felt before.

If you are unsure whether you should have a lump checked, it is best to see your provider. Although a lump may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind that it has been checked.

Nipple discharge

Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it is rarely a sign of cancer. Discharge can be your body’s natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed. Signs of a more serious condition, such as breast cancer, include:

  • Discharge that occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Discharge that occurs in only one breast
  • Discharge that has blood in it or is clear (not milky)

Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or another condition that needs medical treatment. For these reasons, if you have any nipple discharge, see your health care provider.

Know and Manage Your Risk

Breast cancer is a complex disease. We still don’t fully understand it. And while there’s no foolproof way to prevent it, there are things you can do that may reduce your risk of getting it. The two most common risk factors, being a woman and getting older, are uncontrollable. Most controllable risk factors, however, only have a small effect on risk. There’s no one behavior that will prevent or cause breast cancer. Even a woman with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation isn’t guaranteed to get it. In fact, most people diagnosed with breast cancer are at average risk. But when we look at groups of people, trends become clearer. For example, if we find there is a 20 percent decrease in risk of breast cancer in one group of people, we can predict there will be a 20 percent decrease in risk in a similar group. What we don’t know is which specific people in the group will get the prevention benefit.

Who benefits from managing risk?

We know some behaviors can lower the risk of cancer, but we don’t know how great the benefit is for any one person. For example, non-smokers are much less likely to develop lung cancer compared to smokers. However, we do not know who prevents lung cancer by not smoking and who would have remained cancer-free even if they had smoked. Furthermore, most smokers will never be diagnosed with lung cancer and some non-smokers will. So, taking steps lowers risk, but it does not ensure a person never develops the disease.

A healthy lifestyle helps

The good news is there are some healthy behaviors that are under our control that may reduce the risk of breast cancer. And, making healthy choices can lower the risk of other types of cancer as well as many other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

If you or someone you know are in need of local resources please contact us at 616.752.8262 or at info@komenmichigan.org.