Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Breast cancer is the 2nd most common type of cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S. Both men and women can be affected by breast cancer, however, it is rare in men. In the U.S. an estimated 1 percent of breast cancer cases are men. There are different types of breast cancer. The most common types are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Breast cancer occurs when the cells in the breast grow abnormally. These cells divide faster than healthy cells and they multiply more rapidly causing a lump or mass in the breast. Usually, the beast cancer forms in the lobules or ducts of the breast. The lobules are milk producing glands and the ducts are tubes that carry the milk to the nipple. Breast cancer can also occur in the connective tissue of the breast but is less common. When breast cancer spreads outside the breast to other parts of the body it has metastasized. Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced stage of the cancer. Breast cancer is most likely to metastasize to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain in the body. Once the breast cancer has reached stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer there is no cure, however there are treatment options to slow down the spread of the cancer. Research has shown that breast cancer survival rates are increasing. The earlier the breast cancer is detected, the better chance of survival. Therefore, it is important to get a yearly mammogram, especially if you are of the age of 40 and up.
Breast cancer can occur because of a gene mutation. A gene mutation is an alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. There are 2 common types of gene mutations related to breast cancer. The first is germline mutations. Germline mutations are inherited from parent to child. The second is acquired mutations. Acquired mutations are not hereditary, rather they occur over a person’s lifetime due to cause such as, age or UV radiation. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you can talk to your doctor about taking a blood test to see if you have any specific gene mutations related to breast cancer. Having a family history of breast cancer puts you at increased risk, however that does not mean you will get it. It is unclear why some people with risk factors do not get breast cancer and others with no risk factors do get breast cancer. Because of this, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider regularly about any concerns you may have and about receiving breast cancer screening exams regularly.
Some other risk factors include:
A family history of the disease
Never being pregnant
Overconsumption of alcohol
The best way to detect breast cancer is to get a mammogram yearly. The early stages of breast cancer may have no symptoms. A lump in the breast is a sign of possible cancer. A tumor that is small in size may be too minor to feel, which is why it is important to get the mammogram. The mammogram will be able to detect any abnormalities. Remember not all tumors are cancerous, but if you do feel a lump on your breast it is important to contact your doctor immediately to catch the cancer early. Below are other common symptoms of breast cancer, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
A newly inverted nipple
Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
Breast Cancer Statistics
Metastatic breast cancer can occur 5, 10, or even 15 years after an early-stage diagnosis.
61 is the average age women are diagnosed with de novo metastatic breast cancer.
84% of metastatic breast cancer deaths occur in women over the age of 50.
About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
About 42,170 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2020 from breast cancer. Death rates have been steady in women under 50 since 2007, but have continued to drop in women over 50. The overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1.3% per year from 2013 to 2017. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening.
In 2020, it's estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women. Overall, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower.
A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father.
About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older).
1. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast Cancer.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Nov. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352470.
2. “U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics.” Breastcancer.org, Breastcancer.org, 25 June 2020, www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.
3. “Understanding MBC.” What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer? | KISQALI® (Ribociclib), Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, www.us.kisqali.com/metastatic-breast-cancer/about-mbc/what-is-metastatic-breast-cancer/?site=BST-1224417GK100493.