Health Watch - Breast Cancer - Part One

Breast cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States after lung and colon cancer. And experts predict it will claim the lives of nearly 41-thousand people this year.

You've heard it over and over, self exam every month from age 18 and a yearly mammogram after age 40.

Women in the U.S have a 1 in 8 lifetime chance of developing invasive breast cancer and a 1 in 33 chance of breast cancer causing their death. But it doesn't have to mean a death sentence.

Breast cancer is a cancer of the glandular breast tissue. The number of cases has significantly increased since the 1970s. But so has the number of survivors.

Doctor George Reise says it could be the result of better education and more women taking the initiative to stay healthy.

“Certainly mammography has become much more regular. In the early 90's we actually for the first time had documented increase in survival in breast cancer and we really thing that’s due to the fact that cancers are being diagnosed earlier and we do have some better treatment options too, due to the fact that cancer is being diagnosed earlier.”

You know your body better than anyone, so you should take unusual changes seriously.

"Sometimes it's hard to convince ladies they are indeed their own best advocate in terms of self examination. They will know if something is different, breasts are often bumpy and lumpy but if they examine themselves on a regular basis and find something that is different and if they do they can come for further work up."

A lump in your breast doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer. It could be hormones or even caffeine. But it's still important to find out early, especially if the lump doesn't go away in a few days. If a mammogram does reveal something unusual your next step in a biopsy.

"The biopsies we do now a days are less invasive. It used to be a biopsy meant a trip to the operating room. Now a vast majority of our biopsies are done in the office with a needle or a needle like technique."

Then it's up to you and your doctor as to the type of treatment best suited to your circumstances.

"We've really come a long way with all the different treatment regimens.. Surgery has become less invasive and the chemotherapy has come a long way—no, it's not a death sentence. Sometimes it's just a major inconvenience. But if caught early, breast cancer is very, very treatable.

Because the breast is composed of identical tissues in males and females, breast cancer also occurs in males, though it is less common.

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