RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, in fact, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease.
Nearly 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and around 40,000 women die each year of breast cancer.
Breast cancer occurs when there is abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue.
Common risk factors that you CANNOT control include age (older than 55), race (more in white women), family history of breast cancer, gender (more common in women), early menstruation onset, and late menopause.
Other risk factors that you CAN CONTROL include smoking, sedentary lifestyle, diet high in fat, being overweight and drinking excessive alcohol.
Studies have estimated that an annual screening can cut the risk of death by 15 percent to as much as 40 percent. But mammograms frequently raise false alarms.
One large study found that 61 percent of women who have annual mammograms for 10 years will be called back at least once for additional imaging that finds nothing amiss, and 7 percent to 9 percent will have biopsies that don’t find cancer.
Moreover, studies suggest that 5 percent to 50 percent of women are treated for early-stage breast cancer that would never cause harm.
The Cancer Society evaluated the evidence that was available in order to come up with the new guidelines. They found that between ages 40 and 45, a woman’s risk of having breast cancer was closer to a 30-year-old’s than a 50-year-old’s. But by age 45, the risk was high enough that all women should undergo the screening. That is how they came up with the revised numbers.
The goal is to balance the risk of finding false positives and putting women through unnecessary procedures (and worry) with detecting breast cancer in early stages.
The reason that the American Cancer Society has recommended every-other-year screening in those older than 55 is that data shows that tumors discovered in postmenopausal women are likely to grow slowly enough that yearly screenings added only a small benefit while increasing the risk of false positives.
One of the biggest changes however is that the cancer society no longer recommends annual breast exams by your doctor.
Opponents of the new guidelines argue that the data that was examined—some of which is 30 years old—may not be as reliable as newly obtained data. More large clinical trials are needed.
Remember, the guidelines apply only to women at average risk for breast cancer — those with no personal history of the disease or known risk factors based on genetic mutations, family history or other medical problems.