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Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among American women (the first is lung cancer). Early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease, other than adopting a healthier lifestyle. When detected early and before the cancer spreads, women with breast cancer have a 98-percent survival rate. Advances in early detection and better treatments are resulting in higher survival rates, which have been consistently increasing since 1990. Among women younger than 50, death rates have decreased by 3.2 percent per year, and in women 50 and older by 2 percent each year.


  • In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • During 2010, an estimated 207,090 women and 1,970 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
  • In 2010, breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 39,840 women and 390 men in the United States.
  • In Texas, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women.
    Risk Factors
  • Age: Age is an important factor affecting breast cancer risk. Approximately two-thirds of breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
  • Family History: Women with immediate family members (grandmother, mother, or sister) who have had breast cancer are at a greater risk of developing the disease. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing may help determine risk.
  • Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.


The signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women. In fact, some women show no signs at all. If any of the following symptoms or signs are present, women are encouraged to consult their physician immediately for proper testing:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Change in color of nipple or breast
  • New pain in one spot
  • Dimpled skin near the breast
  • A lump under the arm
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge
  • Irritation on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple


Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but there are steps women can take to decrease their risk and/or improve early detection of the disease.

  • Screening
    • Self-Exams: Women should begin monthly breast self-exams in their 20s. Any changes in their breasts should be reported to a physician immediately.
    • Clinical Breast Exams: The American Cancer Society recommends clinical breast exams for women in their 20s and 30s every three years, and annual mammograms for women over 40. Mammograms can detect breast cancer at an early, more treatable stage. Mammograms identify 80 to 90 percent of breast cancer cases in women with no evident symptoms.


    • Regular exercise may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Exercise lowers estrogen and insulin levels, fights obesity, and may prevent tumors from developing.
    • Limit your consumption of alcohol. Studies show that drinking alcohol may raise the risk of breast cancer.
    • Since obesity can further complicate breast cancer, maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition.

Higher Risk

Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss a hereditary cancer risk assessment with their physicians. Even in women with known genetic changes that increase the risk for breast cancer, there are specific steps that can be taken to reduce that risk.

Treatment Options

Anyone with breast cancer should consult with a medical oncologist to determine their specific treatment needs. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Department of State Health Services

Updated 08/11/10

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