Breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the world’s most diagnosed cancer as of 2020. It’s also the most diagnosed cancer among American women. Read on to learn why breast cancer cases are on the rise, why screenings are so important, as well as imaging and treatments available.
Why Are Breast Cancer Cases Rising?
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that around one-third of cancer deaths are due to:
- Alcohol consumption
- High body mass index
- Lack of physical activity
- Low fruit and vegetable intake
- Tobacco use
WHO also attributes the rise in breast cancer diagnoses in the last few years to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women postponed or canceled their annual visits or delayed ongoing treatment for existing health concerns, so doctors are now seeing more late-stage diagnoses as patients return for appointments as a sad result.
While some cancers don’t have screening tests available, breast cancer does — and it has a high chance of being curable when diagnosed early and treated effectively.
Better Imaging and Treatments Are Improving Survival Rates
Some good news is that even though the number of diagnosed breast cancer cases is rising, women with aggressive breast cancer are living longer due to better imaging techniques, which help detect breast cancer earlier, and improved treatments.
The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer before age 50 has doubled since the 1990s, from 18% to 36%.
When we look at the changing statistics and data, it’s important to note that Americans are living longer. That means that there are more older women overall; therefore, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Screening is Still the Best Way to Reduce Your Risk
Breast cancer screening is the best way to find breast cancer early, before it spreads. Screening mammograms are for healthy adults with no symptoms. The goal is to find cancer before you feel a lump or notice other symptoms, such as:
- Breast pain
- Changes in breast shape or size
- Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
- Inverted nipple (pushed inward rather than sticking out)
- Lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Redness, soreness, rash or swelling
Get the Best Care at Well 65+
We recommend that most women receive mammograms every year starting at age 40. Some may need earlier or more frequent screening — like if you have a family history of breast cancer, carry a certain genetic mutation or ever received chest radiation therapy.
Talk with your doctor about the screening schedule that would be best for you at your age with your risk factors in mind.
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