Breast cancer most common for women in United States
The two most common risk factors for developing breast cancer are being a woman and getting older.
Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common for women in the United States and this year alone, more than 260,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women and 2,500 in men.
October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Galveston County Health District (GCHD) is encouraging men and women to practice early detection and treatment.
“While breast cancer screenings can’t prevent breast cancer, they can certainly help detect breast cancer earlier when it is easier to treat,” said Chief Nursing Officer Eileen Dawley, RN.
Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families.
It is recommended women who are 50-74 years old have a screening mammogram every two years. Those who are 40-49 years old should talk to their health care provider about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.
GCHD is proud to increase awareness about the importance of early breast cancer detection through its partnerships with D’Feet Breast Cancer and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS).
Both D’Feet Breast Cancer and BCCS offer free breast cancer screenings to eligible Galveston County women, all available at GCHD or one of its partnering locations. Since January, through these two programs, two women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
D’Feet Breast Cancer, a volunteer non-profit group that receives funding from Susan G. Komen Houston and other non-profit organizations, teams up with GCHD and its partners to provide uninsured and underserved women ages 40-64 free mammograms and diagnostic care as well as community outreach. The BCCS program offers uninsured and underserved women ages 50-64 access to breast cancer screening and diagnostic services.
“These services are vitally important to our uninsured and underinsured residents who otherwise may not have anywhere else to go,” Dawley said. “They help women receive regular screenings, which is the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, thus increasing a woman’s chance of survival.”
One new case of breast cancer is diagnosed in a woman every two minutes in the United States. The risk of getting breast cancer has not changed for women, overall, in the last decade, but the risk has increased for black, Asian and Pacific Islander women. Black women have a higher risk of death from breast cancer than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are risk factors that cannot be changed, and those that can. Risk factors that cannot be changed:
- Age – The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations – Women who have inherited genetic changes – such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 – are at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
- Reproductive history – Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risks of getting breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases – Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Family history – A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s side or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer.
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy – Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (such as treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
- Other risks include having dense breasts and women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Risk factors that can be changed:
- Not being physically active – Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause – Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones – Some forms of hormone replacement therapy – those that include both estrogen and progesterone – taken during menopause can raise the risk of breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history – Having a first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol – Studies show that a women’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
For more information regarding breast cancer screenings, call GCHD Community Health Services at 409-938-2236 or 409-938-2270 and visit www.gchd.org/public-health-services/environmental-health-services/woman-s-health-services.