What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer, a disease that often begins in the lobules or ducts of breast tissue, is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer). In 2013, nearly 233,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. While breast cancer affects mostly women, men can also develop the disease.
The identification of various subtypes of breast cancer has made it possible to personalize treatment according to the tumor type, stage of disease, and the patient's overall health and preferences. Physicians have a better understanding of which patients are likely to benefit from a particular treatment, and can deliver chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery much more precisely.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Risk factors for breast cancer include but are not limited to the following:
- Being female (about 100 times more women than men develop breast cancer).
- Older age (the risk of breast cancer rises with age).
- Ethnicity (Caucasian women are at slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than are African American or Asian women, but African American women are at higher risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, a specific subtype of the disease).
- History of breast cancer or prior treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest in childhood or early adulthood.
- Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day on a regular basis.
- Dense breast tissue (women with dense as opposed to fatty breast tissue are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer).
- Early menstruation or late menopause.
- Exposure to certain drugs, including DES, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and certain other medications.
- History of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal or lobular hyperplasia and other specific conditions identified on breast biopsies (these non-cancerous conditions can suggest a higher risk of developing breast cancer).