RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women today.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. Each year nearly 250,000 women are diagnosed in the U.S. and nearly 45,000 die annually. There are nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today.
1. What is breast cancer?
Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that grow and invade healthy cells in the body. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast as a group of abnormal cells that can then invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Cancer of the breast can be triggered by changes to DNA and certain genes that some women carry can place them at increased risk
2. Who is at risk?
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
• Age >55
• Race—Occurs most often in Caucasians
• Family history of breast cancer
• Certain gene mutations such as BRCA-1 or BRCA-2
• Dense breast tissue
3. What is the prognosis?
Thankfully, due to improved treatment and earlier diagnosis, breast cancer survival rates are improving. Currently survival rates are as follows:
• The 5-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer is close to 100 percent.
• For women with stage II breast cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 93%.
• The 5-year relative survival rate for stage III breast cancers is about 72%.
• Breast cancers that have spread to other parts of the body are more difficult to treat and tend to have a poorer outlook. Metastatic, or stage IV breast cancers, have a 5-year relative survival rate of about 22 percent.
4. How can it be prevented?
There are other risks that we can control—such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and obesity. Lifestyle modifications can decrease your risk. In addition, genetic testing in high risk patients can prompt discussions of prophylactic mastectomy.
In addition, routine screening with mammography as well as breast self-exams can help make diagnosis earlier in the disease and improve outcomes.
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