Trenton, Mo. — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, outside of skin cancers. About 1 in 8 (13%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer.
"It is important to discuss your risk factors with your doctor, who can help you determine the appropriate age to start screening and the frequency of screening tests, such as 3-D mammography, self-breast exams, and clinical breast exams,” said Khannah Smith, M.D., a physician at Wright Memorial Physicians’ Group. “The majority of breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed as a result of an abnormal screening study.”
The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2022 are:
- About 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 51,400 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) will be diagnosed (DCIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 43,250 women will die from breast cancer.
“Breast cancer awareness is at an all-time high in the US, which has certainly helped save lives,” said Dr. Smith. “Advances in technology, such as 3-D mammography, have certainly aided in earlier diagnosis of the disease. Earlier diagnosis and advanced treatment options have resulted in death rates from breast cancer continuing to drop.”
Knowing personal risk factors can help a woman and her doctor plan a course of action that may reduce her chances of developing the disease or detect it in its earliest, most treatable stages.
The most common risk factors:
- Sex. The highest risk factor for breast cancer is being female; the disease is about 100 times more common among women. Men can get breast cancer even though its less common. Any abnormal mass in a male should get evaluated by their primary care provider.
- Age. The risk of breast cancer increases as a woman grows older. The risk is especially high for women age 60 and older. Breast cancer is uncommon in women younger than age 35, although it does occur. There is some evidence to suggest young African-American women are at greater risk for breast cancer than young Caucasian women.
- Personal History. Women who have had breast cancer and women with a history of breast disease (not cancer, but a condition that may predispose them to cancer) may develop it again.
- Family History. The risk of developing breast cancer increases for a woman whose mother, sister, daughter, or two or more close relatives have had the disease. It is important to know how old they were at the time they were diagnosed.
- The Breast Cancer Genes. Some individuals, both women and men, may be born with an “alteration” (or change) in one of two genes that are important for regulating breast cell growth. Individuals who inherit an alteration in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene are at an “inherited” higher risk for breast cancer. They also may pass this alteration on to their children. It is very rare. Scientists estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are due to genetic changes. One out of two women with these changes is likely to develop breast cancer. Women with a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to speak to a genetic counselor to determine the pros and cons of genetic testing.
When individuals are diagnosed with breast cancer, Wright Memorial Hospital provides an Oncology Nurse Navigator program, free of charge, to help navigate the process.
“We are truly blessed to have an Oncology Nurse Navigator program onsite at Wright Memorial Hospital,” said Dr. Smith. “Most smaller community hospitals aren’t able to provide a service like that, free of charge. The nurse navigator can help the patient schedule testing and genetic counseling, offers free classes that help cancer patients with nutrition and beauty tips, and many other services that make a cancer diagnosis more manageable.”
To schedule an annual screening at Wright Memorial Hospital, call 660-358-5818 or schedule online here.
Wright Memorial Hospital is a member of Saint Luke’s Health System, which consists of 16 area hospitals and several primary and specialty care practices, and provides a range of inpatient, outpatient, and home care services. Founded as a faith-based, not-for-profit organization, our mission includes a commitment to the highest levels of excellence in health care and the advancement of medical research and education. The health system is an aligned organization in which the physicians and hospitals assume responsibility for enhancing the physical, mental, and spiritual health of people in the metropolitan Kansas City area and the surrounding region.