Thirty years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer was thought of as a virtual death sentence for many women, but since that time significant progress has been made in the fight against breast cancer. Reduced mortality, less invasive treatments, an increased number of survivors and other advancements have their roots in breast cancer research – more than $790 million of it funded by Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.
However, the reality is that breast cancer is still a serious disease. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held each October, brings awareness to the disease and empowers women to take charge of their own breast health.
This year, about 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the U.S. and nearly 40,000 women will die from it. Globally, 1.6 million people will be diagnosed, and 400,000 will die. Despite the increased awareness of breast cancer, major myths still abound. Women must remain vigilant against this disease by learning the facts and understanding how they may be able to reduce their risk.
The Myths and Facts on Breast Cancer
Myth: I’m only 35. Breast cancer happens only in older women.
Fact: While the risk increases with age, all women are at risk for getting breast cancer.
Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer get the disease.
Fact: Most women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. However, a woman whose mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer has an increased risk.
Myth: If I don’t have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, I won’t get breast cancer.
Fact: You can still get breast cancer, even without a gene mutation. About 90 to 95 percent of women who get breast cancer do not have this mutation.
Myth: Women with more than one known risk factor get breast cancer.
Fact: Most women with breast cancer have no known risk factors except being a woman and getting older. All women are at risk.
Myth: You can prevent breast cancer.
Fact: Because the causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known, there is no way to prevent it.
Actions to Reduce Your Risk
Breast cancer can’t be prevented; however, research has shown that there are actions women can take to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – Postmenopausal women who are overweight have a 30 to 60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.
- Add Exercise into Your Routine – Women who get regular physical activity may have a lower risk of breast cancer by about 10 to 20 percent, particularly in postmenopausal women.
- Limit Alcohol Intake – Research has found that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer.
- Breastfeed, if you can – Research has shown that mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of one year (combined duration of breastfeeding for all children) were slightly less likely to get breast cancer than those who never breastfed.
For more information on the facts about breast cancer and what you need to reduce your risk, or to find resources in your community, visit Komen.org or call 1-877-GO-KOMEN.