The American Cancer Society’s breast cancer figures for the United States indicate that every year about 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women, about 65,000 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer), and about 40,000 women die from breast cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3%).
Our physicians explain that recent advances in terms of mammographic screening programs and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have increased the effectiveness of treatment especially in women over the age of 40.
The fatality rates are high in cases that are not diagnosed early. All women over the age of 20 should receive a breast examination and USG / mammography once every 1-3 years, annually over the age of 40; this is the most effective facilitator of early diagnosis.
Women over the age of 40 are advised to get regular mammographic scan tests even if they do not show any symptoms of the disease. It is known that breast cancer fatality rates have declined by 19-64% (and an average of 30%) in countries where regular scanning is conducted. Younger women should also benefit from self-examination, physical examination and ultrasonography.
Indications of breast diseases include mass, structural deterioration, asymmetry between the breasts or clusters of micro-calcification. Since these symptoms can indicate both benign and malignant disease, scan test results must be evaluated by an experienced breast surgeon and radiologist. Women who notice the development of any hardness, lumps or similar issues should immediately seek medical advice even if their previous mammography tests have been normal.
Incidence of breast cancer in first degree relatives (mother, aunt, grandmother or daughter) is known to be a significant risk factor. The risk is elevated further if such cases occurred before the menopause and / or involved both breasts (bilateral breast cancer).
Hereditary breast cancer genes are responsible for the development of 5% of all breast cancers. Hereditary breast cancer syndromes are observed in 5-10% of breast cancer patients. Two genes are responsible for 80% of breast cancers: BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. The risk of a woman with the BRCA-1 gene contracting breast cancer by the age of 70 is 85%; she also has a 45% chance of getting ovarian cancer. The figures for carriers of the BRCA-R gene are 84% and 76% respectively. Genetic testing is required in order to establish the occurrence of the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes.
This group is advised to undergo breast examinations from the age of 18, mammography between the ages of 25 and 35, with clinical breast examinations every six months to one years and annual MRI breast scan tests from the age of 25-35. In addition, women in this group should undergo ovarian cancer testing once every six months from the age of 30-35.