One in nine women living in North America will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, second only to lung cancer. 43,500 women in the U. S. will die of breast cancer this year, 100 of them from Wyoming. The good news is that 67% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be alive at 10 years (compared with 14% of women diagnosed with lung cancer alive at only 5 years!).
Risk factors for breast cancer include early age at first menses, late age at first childbirth, and late age at menopause. Family history of breast cancer is also important, especially if the cancer occurs in a close relative (mother or sister) at an early age (before age 50). Other risk factors include alcohol intake, radiation exposure and possibly fat intake. Oral contraceptives have not been shown to increase your risk for breast cancer. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may slightly increase your risk for breast cancer. If you are taking HRT and have concerns, consult with your health care clinician.
Prevention is the best medicine. Current recommendations include a yearly exam by your health care clinician, and monthly breast self-exam. This is best done the week after your menses. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer in a first degree relative, you may need to begin yearly screening before the age of 40. Ask your health care clinician for a recommendation.
Consult with your health care clinician if you have any of the above risk factors or need instruction on breast self-exam. Any new breast lump should also be evaluated by your health care clinician. You can schedule an appointment for evaluation at Student Health Services by calling 766-2130.
For more information about breast cancer, visit one of the following websites and type in “breast cancer” in the search box: