What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer

By
Shannon M. Clark, MD
|
January 14, 2022
What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer

The stats on breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American females, except for skin cancers. 1 in 8 females in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is estimated that in 2021, approximately 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in females will be breast cancer. An annual mammogram starting at age 40 for females decreases mortality by 40% and it saves the most lives.

An estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. as well as 49,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. 63% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage (there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast), for which the 5-year survival rate is 99%. This survival rate is great news and is the reason why mammograms are so important!

As Dr. Anjali Malik shares in this discussion, breast cancer is survivable and curable. In fact, there are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Learn about the facts and myths surrounding breast cancer!

I sat down with Dr. Anjali Malik, a board-certified, fellowship-trained breast imaging radiologist, who practices breast imaging and ultrasound at Washington Radiology to uncover the myths and facts of breast cancer.

Basics of Breast Cancer

Who Is At Risk For Getting Breast Cancer?

  • Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in females than in males.
  • Age: Two out of three females with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  • Obesity: Obesity is a risk factor for both males and females.
  • Family History and Genetic Factors: If your mother, sister, father or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.  
  • Personal Health History: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before (such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)).
  • Menstrual and Reproductive History: Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Certain Genome Changes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
  • Dense Breast Tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Several states have passed laws requiring physicians to disclose to females if their mammogram indicates that they have dense breasts so that they are aware of this risk. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of  having dense breasts are.

What Environmental And Lifestyle Modifications Can Reduce Risk?

  • Do regular physical activity- A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Eat a nourishing diet- A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.  
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight- Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.  
  • Limit alcohol consumption- Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.

Additional Risk Factors To Know:

  • Radiation to the Chest: Having had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.  
  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

Myths To Know:

Just as with any disease, there is plenty of misinformation regarding the causes of breast cancer.

  • Breast cancer is not contagious; you can’t contract cancer from a person who has the disease.
  • Breast cancer is not caused by wearing underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, plastic food serving items, microwaves, or cell phones, as myths often suggest.

Learn more info from Dr. Malik!

Dr. Malik provides an immense amount of knowledge and education in our discussion so be sure to watch it and share it with a friend. You never know who you can help by sharing this important information. To learn more about Dr. Malik visit her website and follow her on Instagram!

Watch the discussion or listen to the audio version here!

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Follow Shannon on TikTok @tiktokbabydoc, Facebook @babiesafter35, and Instagram @babiesafter35.

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