Monday, October 5, 2009
OCTOBER is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that may invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too. There are different types of breast cancer, with different stages (spread), aggressiveness and genetic makeup. Treatment includes surgery, drugs (hormone therapy and chemotherapy), and radiation.
Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer (10.4% of all cancer incidence, both sexes counted) and the fifth most common cause of cancer death. Breast cancer is about 100 times as frequent among women as among men, but survival rates are equal in both sexes. The first symptom, or subjective sign, of breast cancer is typically a lump that feels different from the surrounding breast tissue.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
The primary risk factors that have been identified are sex, age, childbearing, hormones, a high-fat diet, alcohol intake, obesity, and environmental factors such as tobacco use and radiation. However, studies of environmental and lifestyle factors only attribute a small increase in breast cancer to each factor.
No cause is known for 95% of breast cancer cases, while approximately 5% of new breast cancers are attributable to hereditary syndromes. There are some risk factors for breast cancer which cannot be changed, including:
Gender: Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. Because women have many more breast cells than men do and perhaps because their breast cells are constantly exposed to the growth-promoting effects of female hormones, breast cancer is much more common in women. Men can develop breast cancer, but this disease is about 100 times more common among women than men.
Aging: Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. About 18% of breast cancer diagnoses are among women in their 40's, while about 77% of women with breast cancer are older than 50 when they are diagnosed.
Genetic Risk Factors: Recent studies have shown that about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary as a result of gene changes (mutations). The most common gene changes are those of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Normally, these genes help to prevent cancer by making proteins that keep cells from growing abnormally. However, if you have inherited changed gene from either parent, you are at increased risk for breast cancer.