How Much Do You Know About Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer Facts

  • An estimated 41,760 women will die from breast cancer in 2019.
  • Approximately 271,270 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Mammography can detect breast lumps too small to be felt.  Mammography is the most accurate early detection technique.

Risks Factors You Can't Control

  • Gender-being female increases your risk.
  • Age-risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older.
  • Family history of breast cancer-having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer-if you have had breast cancer your risk of developing the disease in your other breast is increased.
  • Age at first menstrual cycle (before age 12)-increasing the length of time to menopause, your breast tissue is influenced monthly by hormonal changes.
  • Age at menopause (after age 55)-increasing length of time your breast tissue is influenced by hormones, especially estrogen.
  • High doses of radiation-radiation therapy to the chest before age 30 for the treatment of other cancers, such as Hodgkin's disease, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is known to increase your risk for developing breast cancer.
  • High bone density-your bone density is strongly influenced by estrogen levels. That is why once you reach menopause, when your body is not producing estrogen, you have an increased risk for developing osteoporosis (weakening of your bones) that can cause your bones to break easily. 

Factors You Can Control

  • Weight-even though your ovaries are the major site of estrogen production, adipose (fat) tissue produces a small amount as well. If your extra weight is around your middle and gained as an adult, studies suggest that this increases your risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Exercise-being active is the key to reduce weight gain and the added estrogen production from excess body fat. Regular exercise has the added benefit of increased bone strength. This becomes even more important after menopause when your ovaries aren't producing the estrogen to assist bone development.
  • Alcohol-increases the amount of estrogen you produce. Alcohol is also high in ‘empty' (non-nutritional) calories leading to weight gain and the additional estrogen production from body fat. Current studies are being done to see exactly how alcohol combined with other known risk factors increases your breast cancer risk. 
  • Diet-while eating high-fat foods alone has not been proven to increase your risk of developing breast cancer, it is clear that calories do count and dietary fat is the major source of these. Studies show the rate of breast cancer is lower in countries that have low dietary fat intake.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy (HRT)-while the use of HRT does relieve some of the unwanted effects of menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings, it can reduce the effectiveness of your mammogram. A small change in your breast tissue could be more difficult to see on the mammogram and could delay diagnosis of a breast cancer.
  • Birth control pills-since hormones produced by your body can influence the development of breast cancer, artificially altering these levels with birth control pills can do the same thing.
  • Childbirth-if you have never had children or if the birth of your first child was after age 30, your risk of developing breast cancer is increased due to uninterrupted influence of estrogen on your breast tissue.
  • Breastfeeding-breastfeeding interrupts your body's estrogen production and can slightly lower your risk for developing breast cancer.

However, more than 75 percent of all breast cancers occur in women with no known risk. To determine your risk for developing breast cancer you may use the National Cancer Institute's breast cancer risk assessment tool.

Breast self-examination (BSE) is easy to learn, convenient and free. Brochures describing how to perform BSE are available from the Center for Breast Health, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute.

Warning Signs

  • Lump or thickening in the breast or armpit
  • Change in size or shape of breast
  • Change in size or shape of nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • Change in color or texture of breast skin (i.e., dimpling, puckering or scaliness) Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

See your doctor immediately if you have one of these warning signs!

Medicare and many insurance companies also include mammograms as a covered benefit. Vouchers are available at Center for Breast Health, call 563-421-7625 or toll free 1-800-215-1444.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for Mammograms

The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older have an annual mammogram, an annual clinical breast exam by a health care professional, and perform monthly self breast examinations. Guidelines for Mammograms.

Women ages 20-39 should have a clinical breast exam by a health care professional every 3 years.

All women should perform breast self-examinations on a monthly basis.

For more information on breast health or breast cancer, call the Center for Breast Health at 563-421-7625 or toll-free at 1-800-215-1444.

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