There are two primary types of breast cancer, invasive and non-invasive. This is based on whether or not the cancer has invaded neighboring tissue cells. Invasive carcinomas are the most common types of breast cancer. The cancer originates in the milk ducts or milk glands of the breast and invade surrounding tissue and can also spread to other organs via the blood stream of the lymphatic system.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death related to cancer among women. The death rate for African American women between the ages of 35-44 is nearly double the rate found among white women of the same age group (16.3 – African American females versus 8.8 – white females).
There is a major need for more education and increased screenings and tests for breast cancer among at risk female populations. Survival rates decrease drastically depending on the stage of breast cancer. Among women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, the survival rate is 93 percent and for women diagnosed with Stage II the survival rate is 22 percent. The risk for breast cancer increases as we get older; significantly for women over the age of 55. Family history of breast cancer increases the risk. African American females under the age of 45 are at a greater risk than other women. Dense or less fatty breast tissue increases risk by up to 2 times.
The most common symptom reported is a lump or mass in the breast; typically found by mammogram or breast exam. Other symptoms can be: swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt); skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; nipple discharge (other than breast milk).
The American Cancer Society recommends the following screenings: yearly mammograms for all women ages 40 years and older; clinical breast exam every 3 years for women between 20-30 years old and yearly for women 40 and older; conduct routine self breast exams and report any findings to your doctor immediately; additional tests (MRI, genetic testing, ultrasounds, etc.). Discuss your risk and family history with your doctor to determine if additional testing is needed. Getting a mammogram and breast exam can make the difference between life and death.
Statistics and research shows that when breast cancer is found early and treated early, the chances of survival are greater. Early diagnosis increases the number of options you have for possible treatments that may be less extensive and less invasive. Get your annual exams, talk with your doctor and work to live a healthy lifestyle that not only helps reduce your risk, but also helps improve treatment outcomes. The American Cancer Society encourages women to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and reducing alcohol, if a woman drinks. These choices can help reduce breast cancer risk.
For more information and resources, visit www.cancer.org or www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast.