According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost two hundred and fifty thousand women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Of this group, forty thousand women will die, making breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Breast cancer is also the second leading killer of women in the United States after heart disease. Twenty-six hundred men are also diagnosed annually.
Breast cancer is caused by malignant cells in the breast and is characterized by tumors. There are behavioral risk factors that contribute to diagnosis such as smoking, drinking alcohol, living a sedentary lifestyle, and being overweight or obese. Behavioral risk factors can be changed to lower risk your risk. There are also genetic risk factors for breast cancer, such as family history, race, reproductive history, and physical characteristics of having dense breast tissue. These genetic factors cannot be changed.
Additionally, some women have gene mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genetic mutations can increase your risk of breast cancer. Women who have these mutations can pass them on their children. If there is a family history of breast cancer, it’s a good idea to have genetic testing done to determine if you also have these mutations. In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie had genetic testing because of a family history of breast cancer and found a mutation in her BRCA1 gene that increased her risk of breast cancer. She opted for a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer.
Angelina’s mastectomy move was a bold one – not all women with genetic mutations end up with breast cancer. Women with a family history of breast cancer should eat healthy, exercise regularly, have routine checkups, start mammograms earlier, and perform monthly breast self-exams to check for lumps. Early detection is critical to successful treatment.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be devastating, but there is hope. There are many resources available such as BeyondtheShock.com that provide support and answers. Your doctor can also provide information on local support groups and resources, and explain your treatment options. Dr. Peterson can provide insight and answers to reconstructive breast surgeries for patients who have mastectomies.
After treatment, breast cancer patients are faced with decisions and questions about breast reconstruction. Breast Reconstruction Awareness is a movement that aims to educate survivors on their options for reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy. The mission of BRA is to “close the loop” on breast cancer and bring patients full circle – from education and prevention, through diagnosis and treatment, and finally to reconstruction and life after the disease. National BRA Day is October 19th. Dr. Peterson can provide insight and answers to questions about reconstructive breast surgery options for breast cancer patients.