By: Laura Gros, RN, CBCN, Patient Care Coordinator, Thibodaux Regional
The recent death of singer-actress Olivia Newton-John after a 30-year battle
with breast cancer reminds us that after more than four decades of intense
focus on the disease and billions of dollars in research, breast cancer
continues to threaten women's lives.
Breast cancer by the numbers
Breast cancer remains second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer
in American women. Other cautionary numbers include:
- Second to lung cancer as leading cause of cancer death in women
- One-in-eight chance for U.S. women to develop breast cancer
- 13% average risk for a woman having breast cancer at some point in her life
- 40% drop in mortality rates since 1989
- 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
Detecting the disease early and getting advanced cancer treatment continue
to be the best defenses to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Regular
screening mammograms help find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment
is most successful.
Guidelines for breast cancer screenings
The following guidelines are recommended to help women take charge of breast health:
- Be familiar with how breasts normally look and feel and immediately report
any changes to a healthcare provider;
- Begin screening mammograms between ages 40 and 44;
- Continue annual mammograms from ages 45 to 54;
- At age 55, women of average risk continue annual or biennial mammograms;
- Continue screenings as long as a woman is in good health and expects to
live another 10 years or more.
Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Cancer
Does a positive screening test mean I have breast cancer? A screening test alone cannot diagnose cancer. Additional tests, such as
biopsies, are done to determine if the patient has cancer.
What is considered high risk? The two biggest risks for breast cancer are being born female and getting
older. Women are at higher risk if:
- There is a family history in a first-generation relative (mother, sister, daughter)
- They have an inherited gene mutation
- They previously had breast cancer
- They underwent radiation to the chest between ages 10 to 30
How can I control my risks? While you can’t change family history or aging, you can control certain
lifestyle behaviors including:
- Limit alcohol consumption; the American Cancer Society recommends that
women consume no more than one drink a day
- Watch your weight; being overweight or obese after menopause when the ovaries
stop making estrogen increases risk
- Stay active as regular physical activity is shown to reduce breast cancer
risk, especially in post-menopausal women
Resources for Information
To learn more about breast cancer symptoms, risks, treatments, and guidelines,
visit the American Cancer Society website at cancer.org or contact Thibodaux
Regional Cancer Institute at 985.493.4008.