When it comes to breast cancer, time is of the essence. Breast cancer strikes 1 out of every 8 women, and approximately 1 out of 36 women ultimately die from breast cancer. The main difference between being diagnosed with breast cancer and dying from breast cancer is simple—early detection. Early detection means the cancer has been diagnosed before it has had a chance to spread beyond the breast.
Women with early detected cancers have excellent long term survival. For example, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer the size of a dime or smaller has better than a 95 percent chance of being cured using simpler treatments with fewer side effects.
Know the signs symptoms of breast cancer
You know your breasts better than anybody else—even better than your doctor. So if you notice any of the following, you should see your doctor for an examination:
- Breast lump
- Hardening of the breast
- Strange indentations that haven’t been there before
- Skin erosion
- Redness or heat
- Thickening of the skin (like an orange peel
- Fluid leaking from the nipple
- New-onset retraction of a nipple
Everyone is at risk
Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers among women. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate and is proven to attack all ages and all ethnicities. Caucasian women have the highest rates of breast cancer, followed by African American women, Hispanic women, Asian women, and Native American women. Despite this difference, everyone benefits from early detection.
Understanding breast density and cancer risk
Breast density describes the types of tissue that make up the breast. There are three types of tissues glandular, fibrous connective, and fatty. The amount of each type varies but typically women with more fibrous connective and glandular tissue than fatty tissue have greater breast density making it difficult for a radiologist to see a breast cancer tumor on a mammogram.
Breast density decreases as you age, but if you have dense breast tissue, it will remain that way throughout your life. If you have dense breasts, you also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
How dense are your breasts?
Breast density is classified using a scoring method developed by the American College of Radiology:
- Level 1 = Entirely fatty tissue; less than 25% density
- Level 2 = Scattered fibrograndular densities; less than 25-50% density
- Level 3 = Heterogeneously dense; 50-75% density
- Level 4 = Extremely dense; greater than 75% density
Since breast density has been shown to be a significant risk factor for breast cancer, pre-menopausal women and older women with dense breasts should select digital mammography.