Breast Cancer Facts

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor (a collection of cancer cells) arising from the cells of the breast. Although breast cancer predominantly occurs in women it can also affect men. This article deals with breast cancer in women.

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 9/26/2012

Breast cancer facts

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
  • One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
  • There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasizing) to other body tissues.
  • The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known although a number of risk factors have been identified.
  • There are many different types of breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer is diagnosed with physician and self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
  • Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (the extent of spread in the body).

According to the American Cancer society:

  • Over 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed each year.
  • Nearly 40,000 women are expected to die of breast cancer in 2012.
  • There are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • The recommendations regarding frequency and age when women should get screening mammography differ slightly between different organizations and task forces.
  • Between 40 and 50 years of age, mammograms are recommended every 1 to 2 years (National Cancer Institute). After 50 years of age, yearly mammograms are recommended (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
  • You should discuss with your health care professional the screening frequency that he or she recommends and what guidelines they follow.
  • Patients with a family history or specific risk factors might have a different screening schedule including starting screening mammograms at an earlier age. … Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 9/26/2012

Stress and Aggressive Breast Cancer: Cause or Effect?

A research study presented at the Fourth AACR Conference on the Science of CancerHealth Disparities in September 2011 revealed an association between psychological stressand one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer. The study was performed on 989 women with breastcancer. Two to three months after diagnosis, the women were asked to rate their degree of anxiety, fear, and isolation.

These self-reported stress scores were higher for black and Hispanic women than in white women. Further, those women who reported having higher levels of stress tended to have more aggressive tumors (defined as being negative for the presence of estrogen receptors, meaning that therapies designed to block the effects of estrogen will not be effective) than those with lower stress levels.

The association between stress level and aggressive tumors was strongest in black and Hispanic women. ..Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD  Medical Editor: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD



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