More than a quarter of a million women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and about one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their life.
Although the disease is so prevalent that almost everyone knows someone affected by it, there is good news.
Death rates from breast cancer have been declining for about three decades, likely the result of increased awareness, earlier detection through screening and better treatments.
According to breastcancer.org:
• More than 40,000 women are expected to die this year from breast cancer in the United States.
• Breast cancer has higher death rates for women in the U.S. than any other cancer except lung cancer.
• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. except skin cancer.
• More than 3 million women have battled or are battling breast cancer in the U.S.
• The breast cancer risk doubles for women with a mother, sister or daughter who have had breast cancer, but 85 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women who have no family history of the disease.
Symptoms of breast cancer include new lumps in the breast or underarm, thickening or swelling of a part of the breast, irritation or dimpling of breast skin, redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast, pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area, nipple discharge other than breast milk, any change in breast size or shape and pain in any area of the breast, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Finding cancer early, when it is easier to treat, improves outcomes, and the CDC recommends discussing screening with a doctor.
Although screening guidelines vary among different organizations, most recommend speaking with a doctor about testing by age 40.
Some groups, such as the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, suggest annual mammograms for all women ages 40-75.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women make an individual decision whether to start mammography in their 40s but suggests women who have a parent, sibling or child with breast cancer are at higher risk and may benefit more by beginning screening early.
At the very least, most organizations recommend screenings every two years by age 50.
According to the CDC, though, 11 percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S. affect women younger than 45.
We encourage all women to speak with their doctors about screening, and we hope the death rates will continue to decline.