Breast Cancer Awareness Month

April 18, 2011

Did you know:

  • Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths
  • Only half of California women have had a breast exam in the past two years
  • If all women forty or over took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exams – breast cancer rates could drop perhaps 30 percent, according to experts
  • Adding to the problem is the fact that 70 percent of women with breast cancer do not exhibit any of the known risk factors

Given all these facts and figures, it is clear that we need to increase the number of women who are screened in order to decrease the number of breast cancer deaths in California.

Below are important informational resources as well as some myths and facts about the risk of developing breast cancer.

Important Resources

Myths and Facts about the Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

Myth: Breast cancer is preventable.
Fact: There is no known way to prevent breast cancer and the cause of the disease has not been determined. Early detection followed by prompt treatment offers the best chance for surviving breast cancer.

Myth: Only women get breast cancer.
Fact: Breast cancer is rare in men, but it does occur in roughly 1,000 men each year. In normal men, small rudiments of breast ducts may be found in the center of the breast, beneath the areola and nipple. The vast majority of breast cancers in men, therefore, arise in this area, rather than in the outer quadrants so commonly affected in women.

Myth: Only women with known “risk factors” get breast cancer.
Fact: More than 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable “risk factors.” All women are at risk and risk increases with age.

Myth: If a mammogram finds something, it is too late to do anything.
Fact: When breast cancer is found early, your chances of survival are 96%! This means that 96 out of 100 women survive for 5 or more years. There are many options for treatment when breastcancer is found early.

Myth: Breast cancer is contagious.
Fact: Cancer is not a communicable disease. It results from uncontrolled growth of cells in a person’s own body. These changes cannot affect other people’s cells.

Myth: Small-breasted women cannot get breast cancer.
Fact: The amount of breast tissue a woman has does not affect her risk of developing breast cancer.

Myth: Breast feeding causes or protects against breast cancer.
Fact: No studies have shown that breast feeding causes breast cancer. Some studies have suggested that breast feeding may reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease. However, studies are still ongoing on this topic. A woman who breast feeds her children can still get breast cancer.

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of your breast. A doctor, known as a radiologist, looks at the pictures taken of your breasts. The radiologist makes a report of what he/she finds and sends the report to your regular doctor.

Why should I have a mammogram?
A mammogram can find breast irregularities that are too small for you, your doctor, or your nurse to feel. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women age 40 and older have a mammogram every year. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of their regular health exam, preferably every three years. Women who are at high risk of breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about whether to begin mammography before age 40.

What is meant by high and average risk for breast cancer?
Most women are considered to be at average risk for breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. There are a number of risk factors that cause a woman to be at high risk for breast cancer, and women should consult a health professional to determine their risk level. Some examples of risk factors are:

  • Having a first child after age 30
  • Other breast disease
  • Family history of breast cancer

Where can I get a mammogram?

  • Ask your doctor or nurse.
  • Ask your local health department or clinic.
  • Call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)