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The good news about breast cancer?

also in the How-To Library:
breast self exam illustration
How to do a
breast self exam

Education about the disease is increasing, and survival rates are climbing, as medical science focuses its attention on the disease more than ever before.

Up until the 1950's, the accepted mainstream medical treatment for breast cancer was a total radical mastectomy. This included the removal of all of the breast tissue, muscle tissue underneath the affected breast, and the lymph nodes on the side where the cancer was discovered.

Even with these drastic measures, the survival rate was not impressive. With no good way to detect the cancer (to remove it early enough to prevent the spread to other organs), a diagnosis of breast cancer was considered terminal.

Later in the century, research revealed common breast cancer risk factors, early and late stages of breast cancer, identification of breast cancer genes associated with a higher risk of getting the disease, and methods of early detection like breast self exams..

Today, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and modified mastectomies - in which less tissue is removed - has became the norm. Modern treatment for the earliest forms of the disease (stage 0 and stage I breast cancer), is normally a lumpectomy, or removing just the cancer tissue followed by chemo and/or radiation.

As a result, the survival rate for breast cancer, when it is diagnosed early, has climbed. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the 5-year survival rates for women with breast cancer that are diagnosed and treated are:

  • 100% for stage 0

  • 100% for stage I

  • 92% for stage IIA

  • 81% for stage IIB

  • 67% for stage IIIA

  • 54% for stage IIIB

  • 20% for stage IV

These statistics -- showing higher survival rates in the early stages of breast cancer -- are the reason why medical professionals advise regular mammograms and doing monthly breast self examinations.

The bad news about breast cancer?

The United States and Canada hold the dubious distinction of leading the world in breast cancer cases, with diet and breast cancer environmental risk factors sometimes suspected as playing a role.

breast cancer clusters USA
A map of US breast cancer clusters show increased risk in the industrial Northeast, and a compelling
argument for the role of environmental risk factors in the development of breast cancer.

Weight gain and increased alcohol consumption have all been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. While volumes have been written about a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention, the message is still not getting out often enough to women about the role of diet and exercise in breast cancer prevention.

Today, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death (after lung cancer) in American women. Even with enormous strides in treatment and prevention in the last century, about 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among U.S. women this year, with approximately 39,000 dying from the disease. 

DID YOU KNOW? - Surprising Facts about Breast Cancer

• There is no direct scientifically proven link between smoking and breast cancer in older women.

• Increased alcohol consumption may increase your chances of getting breast cancer by 21%.

• Wearing an under-wire bra, applying antiperspirants, or receiving breast implants are common myths about increasing the risk of breast cancer. All have been scientifically proven to be untrue.

• Men can and do get breast cancer. Although the disease does not strike men as often, when it does, it is usually much more difficult to treat. The survival rate for men with this disease tends to be lower since the diagnosis is usually at a later, less treatable stage.

also see -> Lab Tests & Diagnoses | Breast Reconstruction

More about breast cancer around the Web:

Learn more about the history of the disease, along with current research, related breast cancer pictures & images, where you can find clinical trials for cutting edge treatment, and the latest information on treatment and prevention:

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - The campaign now entering its second decade and offering a rich cache of free educational resources in printable format, multimedia files, feature stories and facts behind the month-long October event that aims to help increase awareness and early detection.

Mammography (Breast Imaging, Mammogram) - Illustrated facts about the procedure that is widely recommended as the first line of defense against breast cancer - including preparation for the exam, details on mammography equipment and how it works, interpretation of results, benefits and risks.

National Breast Cancer Foundation - An outstanding job of dispelling popular myths and providing clear facts on breast cancer symptoms, disease stages and survival rates, along with story articles, video news features, suggested reading and related links to breast cancer awareness.

Breast Cancer: Statistics on Incidence, Survival and Screening - More from Imaginis, with the overall snapshot of U.S. and international cases or deaths per year, incidence by state, age or ethnic group, staging and survival rates, statistics on mammography, and related links.

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

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