Breast cancer awareness
According to the National Cancer Institute, 12.7 percent of women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives. But women now have many treatment options, as well as resources for screening and prevention information.
Balintfy: This year, there will be an estimated 207,000 new cases of breast cancer for women, and roughly 40,000 will die from the disease. But researchers emphasize that we are in a better position now to treat women and to advise them of their risk of recurrence and their overall survival of their disease.
McCaskill-Stevens: Today, we understand that breast cancer is no longer just one disease. Balintfy: Dr. Worta McCaskill-Stevens is a medical oncologist in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute.
McCaskill-Stevens: It is a disease now that is divided into many subtypes, and these subtypes have been defined by new technology that we have.
Balintfy: Early detection is still key—when breast cancer starts, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. Dr. McCaskill-Stevens recommends women age 40 and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years.
McCaskill-Stevens: It's important that women discuss with their physicians their risk of developing breast cancer. If they are at higher risk of developing disease — and this is a discussion that should be about mammography, as to whether they are higher enough risk that they should receive more frequent mammograms or they should be receiving another imaging modality.
Balintfy: Risk factors for breast cancer include a personal or family history of breast cancer, certain breast changes, and being overweight or obese after menopause. The most important risk factor for breast cancer is age, and the risk is not the same for all women of a given age group. Dr. McCaskill-Stevens also points out there are disparities among races.
McCaskill-Stevens: In the disparities that have been observed between African-Americans and white women, one must also consider the fact of access and being vigilant about discussing this with your family members and with your physicians, and that when there are noted symptoms that may be suggestive of breast cancer, that they be addressed in an—in a very expedient manner.Balintfy: She emphasizes that breast cancer awareness is a lifelong commitment.
McCaskill-Stevens: Breast cancer risk is not something that stands still. It increases with age, and so that just because you have determined what your risk status is, it is important that you continue to do so over time.
Balintfy: To better understand risk factors, screening recommendations and treatment options for breast cancer, Dr. McCaskill-Stevens recommends contacting the National Cancer Institute. Call 1-800-4-CANCER, or visit www.cancer.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.