Facts about breast cancer

This year, about 182,800 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and approximately 40,800 women will die from breast cancer.

- More than 75 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are age 50 or older.

- Men can get breast cancer, although this is very rare. For every man who is diagnosed, more than 100 women are found to have breast cancer.

- About 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are inherited. Children can inherit an altered breast-cancer susceptibility gene from either their mother or father.

- In the 1990s, the breast-cancer death rate declined by the largest amount in more than 65 years.

- Nearly 97 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage survive for more than five years.


- The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but some rare cancers are tender, soft, and rounded.

- A generalized swelling of part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt).

- Breast skin irritation or dimpling.

- Nipple pain or retraction (turning inward), redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.

Risk Factors

- All women are at risk for breast cancer; the biggest risk factors are being a woman and aging.

- Personal or family history of breast cancer.

- History of non-cancerous breast disease (diagnosed as proliferative breast disease).

- Having early onset of menstrual periods or late menopause.

- Consuming two or more alcoholic drinks a day.

- Obesity, especially after menopause.

- Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.


- Early diagnosis is the key to surviving breast cancer.

- Mammography can prevent thousands of breast cancer deaths each year.

- Older women are at highest risk for breast cancer, yet they are the least likely to get mammograms.

- Mammography can detect cancers several years before a woman or her health care provider can feel a lump.

- Breast abnormalities are discovered in one of three ways: by a woman herself, by her health care provider during a physical exam, or by a mammogram. Many breast cancers are found by the woman herself, but the smallest cancers are found by mammograms.

- Most breast lumps are not cancer.


- Cancer treatment varies widely depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the age and medical history of the patient. Treatment may include surgery (i.e., lumpectomy or mastectomy), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.

- Most women diagnosed with breast cancer today can be treated in a way that allows them to keep their breasts (i.e., lumpectomy).


- Breast cancer cannot be prevented.

- Physical activity, good nutrition, and certain drugs may lower the risk of getting the disease.

- It has not been proven that a low-fat diet will prevent breast cancer, but it is known that a low-fat diet decreases the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases.

- Women who have two or more alcoholic drinks a day have a greater risk of getting breast cancer than women who don't drink.

Source: American Cancer Society

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