Helpful Breast Cancer Information

Knowing breast cancer facts can both equip and empower you to take care of your breast health. Keep in mind that the statistics below describe large groups of people. They do not consider a person's risk factors, such as family history, lifestyle choices, or not having breast cancer screenings.

Breast Cancer Statistics

Here are a few statistics from the American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • Each year, an estimated 281,550 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the second-most often diagnosed type of cancer in women — skin cancer is first.
  • Breast cancer ranks second as a cause of cancer death in women with lung cancer first.
  • A woman’s risk of having breast cancer increases as she gets older.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,650 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 530 will die each year.
  • On average, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
  • Death rates from breast cancer have been going down since 1989. This is thought to be due to better treatment and diagnosing it early when it is small and easier to treat.

Classifying Breast Cancer

Once your oncologist knows you have breast cancer, the next step is to find out the grade and stage of cancer. A pathologist will determine this after a biopsy. He or she will issue a report and discuss it with you.

  • Staging is a way to note the size of the tumor and whether it has spread.
  • Grading is a way to note how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope.

Staging and grading of cancer are important for deciding how to treat it, and how curable it is. The stage of breast cancer is more important than the grade when deciding on treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Cancer

Below are some of the most frequently asked breast cancer questions.

Can breast cancer be prevented?

This is one of – if not the most – frequently asked breast cancer questions.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer; however, knowing your risk factors can help you develop a plan with your health care professional that includes preventative screening. Early detection and prompt treatment can save lives when breast cancer occurs.

Breast cancer occurs most often in women over 40, and the risk increases with age. Some risk factors—such as lifestyle choices—can be controlled, while others cannot.

You can control lifestyle risk factors by reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol and tobacco. Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and watching your weight are other controllable risk factors.

Lifestyle risk factors may be most important to women already at high risk due to family history of breast cancer gene presence, factors which are beyond anyone's control. Families who have a breast cancer gene tend to have several members with breast cancer diagnosed before menopause.

Is breast cancer inherited?

All cancers involve changes in a person’s genes. Usually, several changes are required before cancer develops. If a person inherits a genetic mutation from a parent, that person has a higher risk of developing cancer. It is currently believed that less than 10 percent of breast cancers involve an inherited genetic mutation.

How often should I have a mammogram?

Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74, while the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends yearly screening for women ages 45 to 54. However, screening recommendations can start at earlier ages if there are risk factors. The ACS also suggests women ages 55 and older could change to screening mammograms every two years if they have a health history that supports such a decision.

Women should talk with their doctors about personal risk factors before deciding when to start mammograms and how often to have them.

Does it hurt to have a mammogram?

A mammogram may be slightly uncomfortable, but it should not hurt. To get a clear picture, the breast is compressed between two flat plates. It lasts only a few seconds. It is a good idea to schedule a mammogram after your menstrual period when your breasts are less likely to be tender.

Does breastfeeding either cause or prevent breast cancer?

Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Can injuries to the breast cause breast cancer?

Injuries to the breasts do not cause cancer to develop. Often injuries lead to the discovery of a tumor because it causes women to pay more attention to their breasts, but bumps and bruises do not cause tumors.

What is a preventative mastectomy?

Preventive, or prophylactic, mastectomy is the removal of one or both breasts to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer. Some women who have a very high risk of breast cancer choose this option.

Women who consider preventive mastectomy are often also advised about preventive oophorectomy—removal of the ovaries. This is considered because women with genes for breast cancer risk may also be at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Can breast cancer be cured?

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer in the early stages are alive after five years. Many women with breast cancer will be successfully treated and never experience breast cancer again; however, recurrence is always a possibility.

At this time, there is no cure for women whose breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Still, many of these women can live for many years, undergoing treatment for breast cancer as a chronic illness.

Can my doctor tell if I have cancer without doing a biopsy?

A biopsy is the only way to be sure if a breast change or lump is cancer. By feeling the lump, the doctor can determine if the lump is suspicious, but not if it is cancer.

Where is the best place to receive treatment?

The decision of where to receive cancer treatment is highly individual, and the factors considered vary from person to person.

However, if the patient lives near a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, such as the Rutgers Cancer Center of New Jersey, together with RWJBarnabas Health, they have access to the latest cancer treatment, research, and clinical trials that are not available elsewhere.

How does diet affect breast cancer?

Studies indicate that diet may be a factor in breast cancer, but results are mixed.

Obesity, however, has been linked to increased breast cancer risk in studies. So, a diet that maintains a healthy weight may help decrease the risk of breast cancer.

Do men ever get breast cancer?

Yes. According to the American Cancer Society, over 2,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer annually.

What role does estrogen replacement therapy play in breast cancer?

Each woman should work with her health care provider to evaluate individual risk factors when making decisions about hormone replacement therapy. If hormone replacement therapy is used, it is usually recommended to use the lowest effective dose to control symptoms for as short a time as possible.

What are cancer clinical trials?

Clinical trials study new kinds of cancer treatments. Doctors conduct clinical trials to learn how well new treatments work and to study their side effects. If a clinical trial result looks promising, it is compared to the results and side effects of current therapies.

People who participate in clinical studies may benefit from access to new treatments before FDA approval. Participants also help further our understanding of cancer and help future cancer patients.

Learn about cancer clinical trials offered at RWJBarnabas Health.

To schedule an appointment with one of New Jersey’s best breast cancer specialists call 844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.

Patient Stories

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