October 12, 2023

LAWT News Service


With October observed as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important for women to have a good understanding of this potentially deadly disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, about 240,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women. About 42,000 women in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer, and Black women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer than all other women.

Additionally, consider the following alarming statistics, according to BreastCancer.org:

• Approximately 13% of U.S. women (about 1 in 8) are going to develop invasive breast cancer in the course of their lives.

• In 2023, an estimated 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in U.S. women.

• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women. About 30% of all newly diagnosed cancers in women each year are breast cancer.

According to Dr. Karen W. Kwan, Hematology and Oncology, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, most breast cancers are found in women age 50 or older, but younger women are not immune to this disease. The CDC notes about 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the U.S. are found in women younger than age 45. Men can also get breast cancer, but it’s not as common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men, the CDC reports.

“For women in general, making sure you have a mammogram is so important because early detection leads to early treatment, and that’s key to survival,” Dr. Kwan said. “You don’t want to play Russian roulette with your life by ignoring such a generally routine examination.”

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that is used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms can find tumors that are too small for a woman or her doctor to feel. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends women start breast cancer screening at age 40 instead of the previously recommended starting age of 50. The USPSTF notes women should get screening mammograms every other year from ages 40 to 74.

Alice Rademacher, a retired psychotherapist from Pasadena, is a breast cancer survivor who attributes early detection of her stage 1 breast cancer to her successful treatment at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, which has now made her cancer-free.

“It definitely made a difference, as I really think having that mammogram saved my life,” noted Rademacher, who says her survival of the aggressive disease was set at 50-50. “If we hadn’t detected it early, with this specific cancer that I had, it would have grown so aggressively that eventually it probably would have killed me. But because it was discovered in its early stages, I was able to make a full recovery.”

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

According to the CDC, there are different symptoms of breast cancer, which include:

• Any change in the size or shape of the breast.

• Pain in any area of the breast.

• Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).

• A new lump in the breast or underarm.

“If you have any of these symptoms, you should have a discussion with your physician,” said Dr. Kwan.

Breast Cancer Risks

The CDC notes many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence your breast cancer risk. You may not be able to change some factors, such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways:

• Keep a healthy weight.

• Exercise regularly.

• If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

• If you’re taking or have been told to take hormone replacement or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

• Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks.

• If possible, breastfeed your children.

“By adopting a healthy lifestyle throughout your life, it will help lower your risk of developing breast cancer and other diseases, including other forms of cancer,” Dr. Kwan said. “It will also improve your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it.”

Kaiser Permanente offers valuable information about breast cancer.

Category: News