What Do I Need to Know About Breast Cancer?

Posted 1/3/23

How common is breast cancer?

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women after skin cancers and is the second most common cause of cancer death in women after …

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What Do I Need to Know About Breast Cancer?


How common is breast cancer?

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women after skin cancers and is the second most common cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Based on the estimates from the American Cancer Society for the year 2022, around 287,850 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,250 women will likely die of breast cancer. On average, about 1 in 8 women (around 13%) in the United States will get breast cancer in their lifetime.

Why is it important to detect breast cancer early?

The goal is to detect breast cancer through screening tests meaning before one develops any symptoms. Detecting breast cancer at an early stage is extremely important for two main reasons:

- When cancers are detected early, they are more likely to be cured and have a better long-term prognosis. For a localized disease which means when the cancer is still limited to the breast, the 5-year survival rate is nearly 99%. When the disease is locally advanced meaning it has spread to nearby areas such as lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate drops to nearly 86%. Unfortunately, when patients have stage IV or distant disease, the cancers become incurable, and the 5-year survival rate is nearly 29%.

- The other important advantage of early detection of breast cancer is that patients with early-stage tumors are less likely to need aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy and surgeries such as mastectomy which is the removal of the whole breast.

How can breast cancer be detected early and should I be getting breast cancer screening?

Numerous studies to date have shown that regular mammograms are one of the best screening tests for the early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms are essentially low-dose X-rays that are used to look for abnormalities in the breast tissue.

Different international societies have different recommendations for breast cancer screening. In general, women above the age of 40 years should get a yearly mammogram. Certain women are considered high risk for breast cancer because they have a personal or family history of breast cancer or have a known genetic mutation such as a BRCA gene mutation or received radiation therapy to the chest wall before the age of 30 years etc. These high-risk women are suggested to start breast cancer screening generally at the age of 30 years which is usually performed with a combination of mammograms and breast MRIs.

What happens if my mammogram shows an abnormality?

In case any abnormality is detected on a screening mammogram, it’s extremely important to find out whether it is cancerous or not. Patients are usually called to undergo additional imaging such as a repeat mammogram or an ultrasound. In case of a persistent abnormality, patients are typically suggested to undergo a biopsy which is sampling the area with a needle under imaging guidance.

What are some of the symptoms related to breast cancer?

In case you develop any symptoms related to breast cancer which may include a lump in the breast/armpit, changes in the skin such as redness/swelling, changes in nipple such as discharge/retraction, pain in the breast/nipple, etc., it is critical that you bring it to medical attention at the soonest and get the appropriate diagnostic testing done.

It’s critical that you go to a state-of-the-art facility for breast cancer screening and treatment. At Care New England Medical Group, we offer a wide range of imaging modalities for breast cancer including 3D mammograms or digital tomosynthesis, breast ultrasounds, breast MRIs, and biopsies. In addition, we have a wonderful team of breast surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and genetic counselors. We also participate in several breast cancer clinical trials looking at newer treatment modalities.

Remember, screening mammograms save lives. Scheduling a mammogram is one of the best things you can do to take care of yourself.


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