What About Screening For Breast Cancer
Evidence clearly indicates that women between the ages of 50 and 69 should have a mammogram every two years. Talk to your health care provider about the organized breast screening program in your province or territory. If you are 40-49 years of age or aged 70 or older, you are encouraged to discuss the benefits and limitations of mammography with your health care provider.
The booklet âInformation on Mammography for Women Aged 40 and Older: A Decision Aid for Breast Cancer Screening in Canadaâ is available on the Public Health Agency of Canada – Decision Aids website.
What Does High Risk For Breast Cancer Really Mean
One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime this is considered average risk for U.S. women. High risk for breast cancer is defined as a greater than or equal to 20% lifetime risk, or in other words, a one in five chance of developing breast cancer over a lifetime. We all know someone a coworker, family member such as a mother, sister, daughter or friend that has been diagnosed with this disease.
Thats why for decades, October and the color pink have gone hand in hand to promote Breast Cancer Awareness. Regular screenings and a healthy lifestyle have been shown to reduce a womans risk for developing breast cancer. In addition to these important actions, you need to be aware of our own individual lifetime risk for breast cancer. Summa Health answers your top questions about what it means to be high risk and how you can take charge of your breast health this month and every month to reduce your risk of breast cancer or detect it at its earliest stages when it is most treatable and curable.
How do I know my risk for Breast Cancer?
The risk for breast cancer is not the same for all women, as it depends on your individual health history and family history. A high risk designation can be determined by one factor or a combination of factors.
What factors increase my risk for Breast Cancer?
Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
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Risk factors for breast cancer may be divided into preventable and non-preventable. Their study belongs in the field of epidemiology. Breast cancer, like other forms of cancer, can result from multiple environmental and hereditary risk factors. The term “environmental”, as used by cancer researchers, means any risk factor that is not genetically inherited.
Although many epidemiological risk factors have been identified, the cause of any individual breast cancer is most often unknowable. Epidemiological research informs the patterns of breast cancer incidence across certain populations, but not in a given individual. Approximately 5% of new breast cancers are attributable to hereditary syndromes, and well-established risk factors accounts for approximately 30% of cases.
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Reproductive Factors And Menstrual History
According to a , getting your first period before the age of 12 or going through menopause after the age of 55 may increase your risk of breast cancer. This has to do with your exposure to the hormone estrogen.
Additionally, not having children, or having your first child after , may also increase your risk.
Reproductive History Estrogen Is The Main Hormone Associated With Breast Cancer Estrogen Affects The Growth Of Breast Cells Experts Believe That It Plays An Important Role In The Growth Of Breast Cancer Cells As Well The Type Of Exposure And How Long Cells Are Exposed To Estrogen Affects The Chances That Breast Cancer Will Develop
The start of menstruation is called menarche. Early menarche is when menstruation starts at an early age . Starting your period early means that your cells are exposed to estrogen and other hormones for a greater amount of time. This increases the risk of breast cancer.
Menopause occurs as the ovaries stop making hormones and the level of hormones in the body drops. This causes a woman to stop menstruating. If you enter menopause at a later age , it means that your cells are exposed to estrogen and other hormones for a greater amount of time. This increases the risk for breast cancer. Likewise, menopause at a younger age decreases the length of time breast tissue is exposed to estrogen and other hormones. Early menopause is linked with a lower risk of breast cancer.
Late pregnancy or no pregnancies
Pregnancy interrupts the exposure of breast cells to circulating estrogen. It also lowers the total number of menstrual cycles a woman has in her lifetime.
Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after the age of 30 have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have at least one full-term pregnancy at an earlier age. Becoming pregnant at an early age reduces breast cancer risk.
The more children a woman has, the greater the protection against breast cancer. Not becoming pregnant at all increases the risk for breast cancer.
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Immune And Excretory Systems
In the later stages of breast cancer, the tumors have spread to other lymph nodes. The underarms are some of the first affected areas. This is because of how close they are to the breasts. You may feel tenderness and swelling under your arms.
Other lymph nodes can become affected because of the lymphatic system. While this system is usually responsible for transmitting healthy lymph throughout the body, it can also spread cancer tumors.
Tumors may spread through the lymphatic system to the lungs and liver. If the lungs are affected, you might experience:
- chronic cough
What Is The Average American Womans Risk Of Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer At Different Ages
Many women are more interested in the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at specific ages or over specific time periods than in the risk of being diagnosed at some point during their lifetime. Estimates by decade of life are also less affected by changes in incidence and mortality rates than longer-term estimates. The SEER report estimates the risk of developing breast cancer in 10-year age intervals . According to the current report, the risk that a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the next 10 years, starting at the following ages, is as follows:
- Age 30 . . . . . . 0.49%
- Age 40 . . . . . . 1.55%
- Age 50 . . . . . . 2.40%
- Age 60 . . . . . . 3.54%
- Age 70 . . . . . . 4.09%
These risks are averages for the whole population. An individual womans breast cancer risk may be higher or lower depending on known factors, as well as on factors that are not yet fully understood. To calculate an individual womans estimated breast cancer risk, health professionals can use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, which takes into account several known breast cancer risk factors.
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Pregnancy Childbearing And Breastfeeding
Lower age of first childbirth, compared to the average age of 24, having more children , and breastfeeding have all been correlated to lowered breast cancer risk in premenopausal women, but not postmenopausal women, in large studies. Women who give birth and breast-feed by the age of 20 may have even greater protection. In contrast, for instance, having the first live birth after age 30 doubles the risk compared to having first live birth at age less than 25. Never having children triples the risk. The studies have found that these risk factors become less material as a woman reaches menopause, i.e. that they affect risk of breast cancer prior to menopause but not after it. In balancing premenopausal reductions in risk from childbirth and lactation, it is important also to consider the risks involved in having a child.
What Happens If You Find Out Youre At Higher Risk
If you and your doctor determine that youre at a higher risk of breast cancer, you can decide together on next steps. Routine breast cancer screening is important for all women, but even more so for those at higher risk, so your doctor may suggest you get screened earlier and more often than other women.
You can also talk to your doctor about options for reducing your risk. Depending on your unique situation, your doctor may recommend either of the following:
- Risk-lowering drugs. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are the only drugs FDA-approved for breast cancer risk reduction in women at higher risk. Both are taken in pill form.
- Preventive surgery. For people with certain gene mutations, having surgery to remove their breasts may dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer. Surgical removal of the ovaries can also reduce the risk of ovarian and possibly breast cancer for certain people.
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Previous Radiation To The Chest
Having had radiation to your chest area for a different kind of cancer in the past increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
The practice of using radiation to treat acne on the face also increases the risk of breast cancer, especially if the radiation was done during adolescence, when the breasts were developing.
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a womans risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
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What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer occurs when a normal cell in the breast becomes abnormal and begins to grow out of control. The cancer can grow into a lump in the breast and can eventually spread to other places in the body such as the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. Breast cancer most often affects women, yet can also be diagnosed in men.
The Importance Of Absolute Risk To Relative Risk
The impact of a relative risk depends on the underlying absolute risk of a disease.
- When a disease is rare , a high relative risk leads to only a few extra cases among those with the risk factor.
- When a disease is more common , even a small relative risk can lead to many more cases among those with the risk factor.
We can think about relative risk in terms of money.
If you only have one dollar, this makes dollars rare. If you double your money, you only gain one extra dollar.
But, if you have one million dollars, this makes dollars common and doubling your money means you gain one million extra dollars.
In both cases, you double your money, but the increase in dollars is quite different.
The same is true with disease risk. The higher the absolute risk of getting a disease, the greater the number of extra cases that will occur for a given relative risk.
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Personal History Of Early Breast Cancer
Women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing cancer in their other breast.
There are also a number of non-invasive breast conditions that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. These include ductal carcinoma in situ , lobular carcinoma in situ and atypical ductal hyperplasia .
Why Is Screening So Important
While some tumors in the breast are aggressive and grow quickly, most grow slowly. In some cases a tumor may have been growing for as long as 10 years before it creates a lump large enough to feel. That means that even if you know whats normal for your breasts and notice when something changes, you may not feel anything until the cancers been growing for a while.
Screening tests can find breast cancer early, when the chances of survival are highest. They can find breast cancer in a person who doesnt have any early signs or symptoms. For people at a higher risk, more frequent screening can mean that if they do develop cancer, they can find it and treat it sooner.
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Breast Cancer: Risk Factors And Prevention
Have questions about breast cancer? Ask here.
ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.
A risk factor is anything that increases a persons chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
Most breast cancers are sporadic, meaning they develop from damage to a persons genes that occurs by chance after they are born. There is no risk of the person passing this gene on to their children, as the underlying cause of sporadic breast cancer is environmental factors.
Inherited breast cancers are less common, making up 5% to 10% of cancers. Inherited breast cancer occurs when gene changes called mutations are passed down within a family from parent to child. Many of those mutations are in tumor suppressor genes, such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2. These genes normally keep cells from growing out of control and turning into cancer. But when these cells have a mutation, it can cause them to grow out of control.
The following factors may raise a womans risk of developing breast cancer:
Early Menstruation Or Late Menopause
If you began having menstrual periods before age 12 or went through menopause after age 50, your risk of breast cancer is slightly higher than average. This may be because of the amount of the female hormone estrogen that your breasts have been exposed to throughout your lifetime. But the precise cause is not known.
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The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool
The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool allows health professionals to estimate a woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer over the next 5 years and up to age 90 .
The tool uses a womans personal medical and reproductive history and the history of breast cancer among her first-degree relatives to estimate absolute breast cancer riskher chance or probability of developing invasive breast cancer in a defined age interval.
The tool has been validated for white women, black/African American women, Hispanic women and for Asian and Pacific Islander women in the United States. The tool may underestimate risk in black women with previous biopsies and Hispanic women born outside the United States. Because data on American Indian/Alaska Native women are limited, their risk estimates are partly based on data for white women and may be inaccurate. Further studies are needed to refine and validate these models.
This tool cannot accurately estimate breast cancer risk for:
- Women carrying a breast-cancer-producing mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Women with a previous history of invasive or in situ breast cancer
Body Image After Breast Cancer
Body image is the way you perceive how your body looks how attractive you feel and how attractive you think others find you. The way you feel about your body image can affect your self-esteem.
Body image is one part of self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself as a whole, which includes your skills and talents as well as your limits and flaws. People with healthy self-esteem generally feel good about themselves and believe they deserve respect from others.
Being diagnosed with, and treated for, breast cancer is one of many experiences that can affect your body image and self-esteem. How you feel about your body image during and after treatment depends on a number of things. For example, your self-esteem and body image can be related to the type of treatment youve had , your personal history, and how you felt about yourself physically and emotionally before cancer.
There is no doubt: breast cancer treatment can cause trauma that affects your body, your mind, and your emotions. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments can have side effects that impact how you look and feel and treatment, in general, can make you feel tired and scared. Its not unusual to experience depression or anxiety at some point before, during or after treatment.
Everyone responds differently to the physical changes of breast cancer. Some factors that could impact your response are:
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Relative Risks In Research
You can put your knowledge of relative risks to work right away.
These tables show research behind many recommendations and standards of care related to breast cancer discussed in this section.
If you dont know how the research process works , our How to read a research table section is a good place to start before looking at the tables.
Learn more about breast cancer research.