In 2016, about 246,660 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. An additional 61,000 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.
An estimated 40,890 breast cancer deaths (40,450 women and 440 men) are expected in 2016.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women younger than age 40.
Several large studies have shown that younger age at diagnosis is associated with higher risk of relapse and death.
Women under age 40 have poorer outcome from breast cancer likely associated with more aggressive tumor biology and delays in diagnosis (no routine breast cancer screening in women younger than 40).
The 5-year relative survival rate is lower among women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 (84%) compared to women diagnosed at 40 years of age or older (90%). This may be due to tumors diagnosed at younger ages being more aggressive and/or less responsive to treatment.
The American Cancer Society 2015 Guideline recommends the following:
a. Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so.
b. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
c. Women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
d. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.
If you have a significant family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you need to be evaluated and followed by a breast specialist. These are red flags for a potential genetic (BRCA1 or 2) or familial source of breast cancer. You need to have a thorough evaluation of your family history and potentially need to start high-risk screening at a younger age than 40. You also need to discuss risk reduction options with a breast specialist. While family history can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, more than 85% of women who get breast cancer do NOT have a family history of this disease.
If you feel a lump in your breast, see a change in the shape of the breast or have spontaneous nipple discharge, you should have it evaluated no matter what your age is.
Mammography is the gold standard imaging modality for early detection of breast cancer. It is the only imaging modality shown to provide a survival advantage of approximately 30% for women diagnosed with breast cancer. This is related to the fact that mammograms can identify cancers before they become symptomatic.
Ultrasound and MRI are used in addition to mammography for evaluating abnormalities on exam or mammogram, but they do NOT replace the mammogram. These imaging modalities are also used as additional tools in the management of women at high risk for developing breast cancer
A woman with cancer in one breast has an increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. (This is different from a recurrence of the first cancer.) This risk is even higher if breast cancer was diagnosed at a younger age.
Diet, exercise and healthy living help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. With so much about breast cancer that is out of our control, these are the aspects of life we can influence.
Know your risk: The earlier a breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the long term outcome.