The pandemic forced a lot of people out of their health routines in 2020. If you, or someone you know delayed getting your annual mammogram last year, you’re not alone. Breast Cancer Now estimates that up to a 986,000 American women may have missed their mammograms in 2020, which, as we all know, plays a crucial role in early breast cancer detection. That’s why Family Healthcare Associates encourages all women over 40 to get back into a healthy routine by scheduling a mammogram during “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” Despite vast improvements in how we treat breast cancer patients, it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the U.S. Some medical professionals are concerned that breast cancer deaths could increase if more women continue to put off their checkups. So, we feel it’s important to take some time to educate our patients on the basics of this disease.
What causes breast cancer?
Breast cancer is caused by malignant tumors in breast cells. Most tumors originate in the milk-producing (lobules) glands, or the breast ducts—while some can originate in the fatty and fibrous connective breast tissue. Over time, malignant cancer cells invade nearby healthy breast tissue cells, and if they make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Although men can get breast cancer too, the vast majority of cases are women, due to the presence of female hormones estrogen and progesterone in their bodies. Besides being a woman, getting older is another risk factor for developing breast cancer. In your thirties, the risk of developing breast cancer is less than half of one percent (.44%.) but when a woman hits her sixties, it jumps to around 3.5 percent. The encouraging news is there are actions everyone can take to protect their health, like exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Besides that, some studies show that taking birth control pills for a sustained period time may slightly increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. If you have a family history of cancer, and have been taking birth control pills for many years, speak to your physician to find out if you should take a break. Of course, the most proactive step any woman can take is don’t ignore your health. Annual mammograms for women over 40, combined with clinical breast exams and routine self-exams, greatly improves a woman’s chances for survival. The National Cancer Institute reports 90% of women with breast cancer survive 5 years after their diagnosis, but that figure increases to 99% when it’s localized breast cancer that is detected early. With more than 281,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer expected to be diagnosed in 2021, if you missed getting your annual mammogram last year, don’t wait. Put your mind at ease and make an appointment with one of our physicians today.