Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer.

Get the facts

One in eight womenThe American Cancer Society states that 1-in-8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their life.

This year, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women and 2,550 cases among men. In addition, 63,960 cases of in situ breast carcinoma (ductal carcinoma or lobular carcinoma, referring to where the cancer started within the breast) will be diagnosed among women.

Approximately 40,920 women and 480 men are expected to die from breast cancer in 2018.

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

Breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most easily treated, which is why screening is important for early detection. The most common physical sign is a painless lump. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to underarm lymph nodes and causes a lump or swelling, even before the original breast tumor is large enough to be felt.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

Breast cancer is typically detected either during a screening examination, before symptoms have developed, or after a woman notices a lump. Most masses seen on a mammogram and most lumps turn out to be benign (noncancerous), do not grow uncontrollably or spread, and are not life-threatening. When cancer is suspected, microscopic analysis of breast tissue is necessary for a diagnosis and to determine the extent of spread and characterize the type of the disease.


According to the National Cancer Institute, between 30-50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable. Getting regular mammograms and early diagnosis can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women with average-risk who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. Average-risk women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their healthcare provider about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.

Breast cancer survival

Breast cancer survival depends on a person’s diagnosis and treatment. A main factor in survival is breast cancer stage.

More than 3.5 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer were alive on Jan. 1, 2016. Some of these women were cancer-free, while others till had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment.

Based on the most recent data, relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are 91 percent at 5 years after diagnosis and 80 percent after 15 years.


Lowering your breast cancer risk

Although researchers have learned a lot, we still don’t know what causes breast cancer to develop at a certain time in a certain person. It’s likely a combination of risk factors.

There are many factors that can influence your breast cancer risk. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older, your family history, or genetics; but you can lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or limit to no more than one drink per day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly (at least 4 days a week)
  • Get adequate sleep each night (6 to 8 hours)
  • Breastfeed your infant children, if possible
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens)
  • Limit exposure to radiation if not medically necessary

Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of survival if it does occur.

Article references: American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, National Cancer Institute

The information on this blog is provided for general information purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, treatment or evaluation; nor should it be used in diagnosing a health condition. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider if you or a family member has or suspect you have a medical problem.