Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting American women, and is second only to lung cancer as a leading cause of cancer death in women. The number of breast cancer cases has started to decrease slightly since the 1990s after a consistent rise during the 20 years prior. Death rates from breast cancer continue to decrease over time, in part, due to a greater emphasis on screening with routine breast exams and mammography.
These screening tools often can detect breast cancer at an earlier stage, when it is more treatable, which helps explain why the number of breast cancer cases initially rose despite a decline in the death rates.
WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Jenee Bobbora, 39, lives in the Houston area. When she was 32 years old, Bobbora says she woke up one day with a painfully swollen left breast. She consulted her gynecologist, thinking it might be because she...
The exact cause of breast cancer has not been established, but there are risk factors that may play a role. A risk factor is a trait or behavior that increases a person's chance of developing a disease or makes a person susceptible to a certain condition. Risk factors for breastcancer include:
Being a carrier of an altered form of the breast cancer gene, BRCA1 or BRCA2 (Genes are the basic unit of heredity. They contain instructions for a cell's development and function, and can be passed on from parents to children.)
All women should be aware of their risk for breast cancer. It can affect women of every age, race, and ethnic group. However, the rates of developing and dying from breast cancer vary among various racial and ethnic groups.
According to the National Cancer Institute, white, non-Hispanic women have the highest overall incidence rate for breast cancer among U.S. racial/ethnic groups, while Native-American women have the lowest rate. Among women ages 40-50, African-American women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than white women and the highest death rate from breast cancer. Asian-American women have the lowest death rate.