Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer). But millions of women are surviving the disease thanks in part to early detection and improvements in treatment.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates from breast tissues, usually it is formed from the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) or lobules (glands that make milk) cells. It occurs in both women and men, although breast cancer in women is more frequent.
The American Cancer Society is actively fighting breast cancer by helping women get tested to find breast cancer earlier, and helping them understand their treatment options and cope with the physical and emotional side effects.
Facts about breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer (other than skin) that you may have to face in your lifetime.
It can occur at any age, but it is much more likely after age 40 and as you get older.
When found and treated – when it is small and in its earliest stage, the chance for successful treatment is great.
A mammogram can find cancer when it’s very small, often years before a woman or her doctor would be able to feel it.
The main risk factors for breast cancer in women are:
Aging: the risk of breast cancer increases as women get older.
Genes: mutations of certain genes that are inherited from the mother or the father increase the risk of breast cancer.
Family history of breast cancer: having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter, brother and father) who had breast cancer increases the risk of developing breast cancer, especially if this relative was under 45 years of age at the time of the diagnosis.
Personal history of breast cancer: having had breast cancer increases the risk of having breast cancer in a different part of the breast or in the other breast.
Lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone.
History of certain benign breast conditions.
Geographic and social factors.
Use of medications containing estrogen and progesterone.
Radiotherapy of the breast during childhood or adolescence.
Overweight and obesity: being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Alcohol consumption and smoking: the risk of breast cancer increases with alcohol consumption and with smoking, but the mechanisms are unclear.