10 Must-know Facts About Breast Cancer

african american woman wearing a breast cancer ribbon

October is breast cancer awareness month, and it is a great time to support breast cancer research, and those women who are breast cancer survivors. It’s also a great time to remember to schedule your yearly mammogram.

Here are some more facts about breast cancer to keep in mind this month.

  1. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer – or 12% of women.
  2. A gene mutation called BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the likelihood of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. However, most breast cancer cases are sporadic, or have no known genetic cause.
  3. Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer. That’s because estrogen is carried in fat cells. The more fat cells that are present, the more estrogen is in the body. Women with high lifetime exposure to estrogen may have increased breast cancer risk.
  4. The mammogram remains the most important screening device in the detection of breast cancer and it probably saves thousands of lives every year.
  5. Immunotherapy, or personalized medicine at Penn uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Clinical trials at Penn for immunotherapy and breast cancer are promising.
  6. Women with cancer in one breast have a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.
  7. Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer.
  8. Men can also develop breast cancer. About 1 out of 5 men with breast cancer have close male or female relatives with the disease.
  9. Symptoms of breast cancer can include anything from a change in the look or feel of the breast to spontaneous nipple discharge, or a lump. Know the symptoms of breast cancer.
  10. Wear pink proudly! The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. The first known use of a pink ribbon in connection with breast cancer awareness was in the fall of 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.

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The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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