The Doctor Is In: Breast Cancer Awareness

Content is sponsored and provided by Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Expert: 
Jessica Bensenhaver, M.D. 
Director, Breast Cancer Program 
Henry Ford Cancer Institute 

October is the month of pink, a time to emphasize the importance of breast cancer prevention and early diagnosis for women of all ages, as well as learn about the vast treatment options available to patients. 

Breast Cancer Facts 

About one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.  

In 2018, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.  

Most women who develop breast cancer will not have a family history of breast cancer. 

Breast cancer can be caused by inherited gene mutations, including a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which makes up about 5% to 10% of all breast cancers. 

Other risk factors for breast cancer: a family history of the disease, menstruating at an early age, older age at first birth or never having given birth, and taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone for symptoms of menopause. 


Breast Cancer Risks You Can Control 

Obesity: Among postmenopausal women, those who are obese have a 20 to 40 percent increase in risk of developing breast cancer. 

Alcohol Consumption: Consuming one alcoholic drink per day increases your chances of getting breast cancer by at least 5 percent. Two to three drinks per day raises your risk by 20 percent.  

Exercise: Regular exercise lowers breast cancer risk. Adults should engage weekly in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity 

Breastfeeding: Studies have shown that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer.  

Hormone Use After Menopause: There is a link between Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and increased breast cancer risk.  


Family History and BRCA Genes 

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary, meaning they run in the family. 

Most women know that if their mother or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, they’re at a higher risk. Having just one first degree relative with a history of breast cancer puts you at a higher risk. 

If you have relatives on your FATHER’S and/or MOTHER’S side of the family with breast and/or ovarian cancer, it’s recommended that you with your health care provider about genetic testing.  

BRCA genes: Changes (inherited mutations) in two cancer-sensitive genes called breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) cause these inherited cancers.  

Each year, about 16,000 new cases of breast cancer and ovarian cancer occur in people with changes in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. 

Women found to be at high risk for breast cancer may consider intensified breast screening options (MRI in addition to mammogram), prevention medication (when appropriate), or prevention mastectomy surgery.
Detecting Breast Cancer Early 

If breast cancer is found early, there are more treatment options and a better chance for survival.  

All women age 20 and older should get in the habit of performing regular breast self-exams. 

Unless there is a family history or additional personal risk for breast cancer, yearly mammograms should begin at age 40.