Facts of breast cancer

Arm yourself with knowledge about breast cancer

Many breast cancer survivors say that arming yourself with information—from your doctor, a breast cancer support group, and reputable organizations like those referenced below—is one of the most important things to do when fighting breast cancer.

The first signs of breast cancer typically show up on a mammogram before being felt by the woman or doctor. But symptoms of a tumor could be a painless mass. Other symptoms include breast swelling, distortion, tenderness, irritation, nipple discharge and redness, and other abnormalities in the breast or underarm area. If you experience any of these signs, make an appointment with your health care provider right away. Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Second only to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, no matter race or ethnicity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

One in 8 women born today, or about 12 percent, will get breast cancer. SEER Cancer Statistics Review

40,480 women and 450 men are expected to die in 2008 from breast cancer. American Cancer Society

An estimated 182,460 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 67,770 new cases of in situ (non-invasive) breast cancer are expected to occur among U.S. women in 2008. American Cancer Society

1,270 women are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Nevada by the end of 2008. American Cancer Society

Famous breast cancer survivors include actress Edie Falco of The Sopranos, singer Melissa Etheridge, activist Gloria Steinem, singer Olivia Newton-John, Charlie’s Angels stars Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, singer Sheryl Crow, Golden Girl Rue McLanahan, actress Christina Applegate, singer Kylie Minogue, Suzanne Somers, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, singer Marianne Faithful, Shirley Temple Black, and journalist Cokie Roberts.

Risk factors include getting older, being younger when you had your first period, starting menopause later, being older at the birth of your first child, never giving birth, not breastfeeding, a family history of breast cancer, being overweight, long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, using oral contraceptives, drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day, and not getting regular exercise. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

Risk also increases for those with genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These mutations are present in less than 1 percent of the population, but those with an increased prevalence of them include: women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, people with a family member who had breast cancer in both breasts, those whose mother or daughter has had breast cancer before age 50 or ovarian cancer at any age, those who’ve had a man in the family with breast cancer, and people under age 50 when diagnosed. Mayo Clinic

After increasing for more than 20 years, female breast cancer rates decreased by 3.5 percent per year from 2001-2004. That may be due to reduced use of hormone replacement therapy, which has been linked to the disease. It could also reflect the 3.5 percent drop to 66.4 percent of women 40 and older using mammography. American Cancer Society

Experts recommend that women 40 and older have a mammogram every year. If your mother or sister had breast cancer before menopause, you may need to get mammograms and annual clinical breast exams before age 40. All women should have clinical breast exams by a health provider at least every three years beginning at age 20 and every year after age 40. Susan G. Komen for the Cure