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Breast Cancer Network
National Breast Cancer Foundation
National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Public Health Institute's Breast Cancer Answers


Facts About Breast Cancer in the USA
National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations
9 East 37th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10016
(888) 80-NABCO

Breast Cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the United States.
Both its cause and the means for its cure remain undiscovered.  Over two million breast cancer survivors are alive in the U.S. today.

In 2001, 192,200 new cases of female invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed , and 40,200 women will die from the disease .  Nearly 46,400cases of female in situ (preinvasive) breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2001.  Of these, approximately 88% will be ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).  Breast canser is the second leading cause of cancer death for all women (after lung cancer), and the leading overall cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 40 and 55.

Men can develop breast cancer too , although its incidence is low.  In 2001, 1,500 male cases are projected to be diagnosed, and 400 men will die from the disease.

In the United States, one out of nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime -- a risk that was one out of 14 in 1960.  This year, a breast cancer will be newly diagnosed every three minutes, and a woman will die from breast cancer every 13 minutes.

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer .  the risk of developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages, if she has a family history of breast cancer, has never had children or had her first child after age 30 and if she has had prior treatment with radiation therapy for Hodgkin's disease.  however, over 70 percent of cases occur in women who have no identifiable risk factors.

Breast cancer cannot yet be prevented .  However, there is now a risk reduction option available for women at very high risk,  such as the estimated five to ten percent of American women with multiple close blood relatives who have had the disease.  In 1998, the drug Tamoxifen is FDA-approved for use in this high-risk group, however, the drug's benefits, risks and side effects vary for each woman, and must be thoroughly discussed with an expert physician.

Breast cancer can be detected at an early, treatable stage in women age 40 and older.  More widespread use of regular screening mammography has been a major contributor to recent improvements in the breast cancer survival rate.  A 1997 survey showed that on average, 58 percent of U.S. women age 50 and older had received a mammogram within the last year.  A screening mammogram is a simple, low-dose x-ray procedure that can reveal breast cancer at its earliest stage, up to two years before it is large enough to be felt.  In NABCO's view, annual screening mammography should begin at age 40 and continue as long as a woman is healthy and able to undergo the test.

Annual breast examinations by a medical professional are a required complement to annual screening mammography.  Although mammography is now the most frequent means of discovering breast cancer, lumps and breast irregularities are often found by women themselves, yet most women have not been instructed in breast self-examination (BSE), and do not perform it regularly.  Although BSE has not been demonstrated to affect breast cancer survival, a recommended component of every woman's breast health program is to become familiar with her breasts and what "normal" feels like to her.

In the United States, over 80 percent of biopsied breast abnormalities are proven benign , but any breast lump must be evaluaed by a physician.  New, less invasive biopsy procedures (such as stereotactic core needle biopsy) permit removal and evaluation of breast tissue in a surgeon's or radiologist's office, and require no special preparation or recovery period.

If detected early, breast cancer can be treated effectively with surgery that preserves the breast, followed by radiation therapy.  This local therapy is often accompanied by systemic chemotherapy and.or hormonal therapy.  Currently, 62 percent of breast cancers are discovered at an early, "localized" stage, and five-year survival after treatment for early-stage breast cancer is 96 percent.

Breast cancer incidence increases with age , rising sharply after age 40.  About 80 percent of invasive breast cancers occur in women over age 50.  Average age at diagnosis is 64.

(C) NABCO, February 2001

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