Questions for your physicians:
- What is my chance of getting breast cancer?
- What is invasive breast cancer?
- What are my risk factors for breast cancer?
- When should I start getting screening mammograms?
What does “Breast Cancer” mean?
Invasive breast cancer is defined by breast cells that grow abnormally fast and may develop the ability to spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body. It can take years for breast cells to slowly develop the genetic changes (mutations) to change from a normal cell to an invasive cancer cell. Invasive breast cancer can threaten your life. Learn more with our video lesson on “Invasive Breast Cancer“ (here).
Non-invasive breast cancer is when cells also grow abnormally fast, but cannot yet spread beyond the breast to threaten someone’s life. Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) is an example of the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. Take our video lesson (here) to learn more about “DCIS.”
Important facts about Breast Cancer:
- Almost 10% of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime
- Treatments can cure 90% of women with breast cancer
- Surgery, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy are treatment options
- Genetic testing and genomic assays are commonly used today
What’s the chance I will develop breast cancer?
About one in ten women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. One in one thousand men will develop male breast cancer. There are many “risk factors” that increase the chance someone will be diagnosed with breast cancer. More “high risk” factors include inherited genetic factors, dense breasts, never having children or a strong family history of breast cancer.
How is breast cancer treated?
The most common first treatment for early stage breast cancer is surgery, possibly followed by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and then hormonal therapy. Breast cancer treatment is incredibly complex and there can be many different approaches to the same type of breast cancer. There are some situations that are better treated by “neoadjuvant chemotherapy” as a first treatment rather than surgery. The Breast Cancer School for Patients was created to educate you to make the best treatment decisions with your breast specialists.
How do I reduce my risk of getting breast cancer?
Two hours a week of regular exercise has been shown to significantly reduce the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Other risk reduction activities include avoiding obesity, breastfeeding your children, and limiting alcohol or tobacco use.
When should I start getting screening mammograms?
Beginning annual screening mammography at 40 years old is likely the safest approach. Over the past few years, multiple organizations are slowly revising their mammography screening guidelines to start at 45 or 50 years of age. But this is an ongoing debate that will take years for the medical community and patient advocacy organizations to come to a consensus as to the correct age to start screening and how frequently to get mammograms. Our video lesson (here) on “When Do I Start Mammograms?“ covers this controversial topic in detail.
This page (here) on “What is Breast Cancer” is excellent. The Susan G. Komen organization is a leading advocacy group dedicated to assisting patients, funding research, and ensuring quality breast cancer care.
An outline of “What is Breast Cancer” is located (here). The American Cancer Society is an organization that supports patients with cancer and funds research for cancer of all types.
This simple, two-page summary “ASCO Answers: Breast Cancer” is located (here). The American Society of Clinical Oncologists is a leading organization of clinicians who care for people living with cancer
The “Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation” website is a wonderful resource for patients. This organization strives to educate patients, promote advances and provide a community for women with triple negative breast cancer.
More Detailed References:
This is a detailed outline of treatment options for women with breast cancer written specifically for patients. Choose the brochure that best reflects your own unique situation. The NCCN is a consortium of organizations and governmental agencies to promote quality breast cancer care.
If you want to get deep into the details, this free 200-page pdf document (here) has guidelines to help clinicians to make treatment recommendations about nearly all aspects of breast cancer. You can easily register (here) as a non-professional to get access and more information about breast cancer. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network is the leading organization in developing clinical guidelines.