A Brief Background on Breast Cancer

In 2020, more than 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in American women alone. Out of which, about 42,000 of them will die due to the disease. Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers around the world with over 2 million cases in 2018.

Cancer grows when a cell is damaged. Uncontrolled growth of damaged cells in the breast creates a mass of tissue called a tumor. The type of breast cancer that starts in the lobules is called lobular carcinoma and if found in the milk duct, which is the most common, is called ductal carcinoma.

Causes 

The exact cause of cancer, in general, remains unclear and breast cancer is no exemption. Medical world seldom know why one person develops it and another won’t. It could be environmental or genetic, or in most cases, a combination of the two and most women who have breast cancer will not be able to pinpoint the exact cause.

However, there are many known risk factors that make a woman (or man) susceptible to develop breast cancer.

Age

Most breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50 and its risk increases as women age. As people age, abnormal changes in cells are more likely to occur and based on data from 2012-2016, 62 is the median age of diagnosis in females with breast cancer.

Gender

Although men can develop breast cancer, there are nearly 100 times more common among women than men. Based on statistics, only 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men and most cases are only diagnosed between the ages of 60-70.

Family history

Having an immediate family – mother, father, child, sibling – diagnosed with cancer, gives the person a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, too. And if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 50, the risk increases.

Radiation exposure

Having been exposed to moderate or high-dose radiotherapy to the chest area is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Findings show that radiation exposure from atomic survivors and women who received radiation therapy treatments increased the risk of breast cancer development.

Hormone treatment

Taking hormone replacement therapy (i.e. for menopause management), can increase the risk of breast cancer, but only when used for 10 years or more. Menopausal women who undergo hormone replacement therapy to ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, bone loss, and fatigue increase their risk by 75% of having breast cancer.

Genetic mutation

According to the American Cancer Society, there are certain genetic mutations that will give a person a highly likely chance of developing breast cancer by almost 70%. A woman who has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and some other cancers.