Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in women (after skin cancer). It’s the most common noncutaneous cancer in U.S. women, with an estimated 61,000 cases of in situ disease, 246,660 cases of invasive disease, and 40,450 deaths expected in 2016.85% of women with breast cancer do not die of their disease; in fact, nearly 100% of women diagnosed with stage 0 & 1 have a nearly 100% 5-year survival.
To share important information related to breast cancer, we have compiled some of the latest research news related to breast cancer from top research institutions around the world.
“Effective treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis—without that, the care team will not know the best course of treatment for the patient, which depends on the type of cancer and extent of disease,” said Dr. Simpson. “Patients may not always be in direct contact with their pathologist, but that doesn’t mean they cannot become a more knowledgeable patient.”
If you find yourself facing a breast cancer diagnosis, Dr. Simpson recommends the following steps to help improve your understanding of the treatment process.
Request your pathology report: A copy of your pathology report is available and will specifically outline your diagnosis, which steers the course of your treatment.
Understand your diagnosis: Resources like the CAP's Understanding Your Pathology Report can teach non-medical professionals how to read the report, and includes important details like whether a tumor is benign or cancerous and, if cancerous, the type, grade, and extent of the cancer. You can also ask to speak to your pathologist if you have any questions regarding your report or diagnosis.
Explore your diagnosis: The diagnosis of most breast cancers is straightforward, but some examples of non-invasive cancers (e.g., ductal carcinoma in situ), can be difficult to diagnose, especially in a core biopsy specimen that may sample only a small amount of the abnormal area. The lay press has highlighted the difficulty in consistent diagnosis of these borderline lesions, as pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article .
To understand their diagnosis, patients might consider asking their treating physicians the following questions:-
Is my diagnosis an invasive or non-invasive type of cancer?
Do the imaging and pathology report match?
Was enough of my tumor sampled for it to be diagnosed?
Did the biopsy come from the same targeted area represented in the imaging?
Understand your options: Women diagnosed with breast cancer should not rush into treatment. They have time to consider options based on the expertise of their care team, including further tests and even second opinions. Pathologists follow several processes to try to ensure accuracy in their diagnoses. This includes the integration of patients’ clinical information, including imaging findings. The pathologist may use special stains to help sort out the findings under the microscope. Decisions are rarely if ever made in isolation, however, as collaboration and consultation with other pathologists and clinicians is regular practice. The patient also needs to have a voice in their own care process.
There are many unavoidable risk factors for breast cancer including gender, age, family history, genetics, personal history of breast cancer, prior radiation to the chest, menstrual and pregnancy history, race/ethnicity, and certain breast changes. However, there are also several modifiable breast cancer risk factors that women can focus on to decrease their risk of breast cancer and to live a healthier life.
- Drinking alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Any amount of alcohol can increase breast cancer risk, but the risk starts to increase significantly with three drinks or more a week.
- Studies have shown a 10 percent increase in risk with each 10 grams per day of alcohol intake (one drink has approximately 14 grams of alcohol).
- Currently smoke or history of smoking a large number of cigarettes.
- Started smoking at a younger age.
- Smoking a higher number of pack-years, with risk increasing with every 20 pack-years.
- Smoking before the birth of their first child.
There is an association between smoking and increased breast cancer risk, but more research into this is needed.
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 30 kg/m2) is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women.
- Women who have gained 10 kg (22 pounds) or more since menopause also have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who maintain their weight.
- In premenopausal women, an increased BMI is actually associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
- A Mediterranean diet, consisting of plant foods, fish, and olive oil, may decrease the risk of breast cancer.
- There has been a lot of debate about soy-based foods (i.e. edamame, tofu), but recent data shows that soy appears to be safe and may even be beneficial in women diagnosed with breast cancer.
- The data on red meat intake and breast cancer risk is controversial, but red meat consumption in moderation is always recommended for other health benefits.
- Dairy products are still under study. Large studies have shown no link between dairy products and breast cancer risk after menopause. More research is needed in premenopausal women to draw conclusions about dairy intake and breast cancer risk.
- There is no association between caffeine and breast cancer risk..
Vitamin D deficiency may increase breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.Abstaining from alcohol and smoking and maintaining a healthy weight after menopause can help to decrease your breast cancer risk. In addition, certain dietary factors and maintaining normal Vitamin D levels may help to decrease your risk further.
A single protein building block commonly found in food may hold a key to preventing the spread of an often-deadly type of breast cancer, according to a new multicenter study published today in the medical journal Nature.Investigators found that by limiting an amino acid called asparagine in laboratory mice with triple-negative breast cancer, they could dramatically reduce the ability of the cancer to travel to distant sites in the body. Among other techniques, the team used dietary restrictions to limit asparagine.
Foods rich in asparagine include dairy, whey, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains. Foods low in asparagine include most fruits and vegetables.
There are common myths about breast cancer that must be dispelled to help patients and their families. These include:
Myth: Every lump in the breast is a cancer.
Fact: Nine out of ten masses biopsied are benign (not cancer).
Myth: I don’t have breast cancer because no one in my family has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Fact: Eight out of every 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer, do not have a family history of breast cancer.
Myth: If I get breast cancer, I am likely going to die from the disease.
Fact: Approximately 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not die of the disease. Survival is influenced most by stage at diagnosis.
Myth: Breast cancer is treated by removing my breast.
Fact: Removal of the entire breast is one option, but just removing all of the cancer and leaving the healthy breast tissue is often also an option.
Myth: All women with breast cancer will need chemotherapy.
Fact: Chemotherapy is used in some women with breast cancer but not everyone must have chemotherapy. The earlier the stage, the less likely you will need chemotherapy.
Myth: Breast cancer is only hereditary.
Fact: While family history plays a part, it is not the only risk factor. Women who have no family history can get breast cancer, and others who have a strong family history may never get it. Triple negative breast cancer is more often hereditary than other types of breast cancers. Talk with your health care provider about women in your family who have had cancer to determine what screenings are appropriate for you.
Myth: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.
Fact: Internet rumors have been circulating for years linking antiperspirants and deodorants to breast cancer. The claim is that either harmful substances, such as aluminum, in deodorants leaked into the skin, raising the risk of cancer, or that they block the body's ability to release toxins, causing a build up that ultimately leads to cancer. Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the FDA has found any link between the use of antiperspirant or deodorant to breast cancer.
Myth: Eating fruits and vegetables will cure breast cancer.
Fact: Although eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, it does not cure cancer. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, though, so eating them is still a healthy habit to adopt.
Myth: Eating soy causes breast cancer.
Fact: Soy products are low in fat, cholesterol and can be a healthy addition to your diet, but they contain phytoestrogens which can have a weak estrogen effect. Some studies have shown an association with high soy intake and a modestly reduced risk of breast cancer. With all of the existing data, we cannot conclude that there is a definitive effect of soy on breast cancer risk. Although there is no convincing evidence that soy affects risk of recurrence of breast cancer in survivors, due to the theoretical risk that phytoestrogen could stimulate the growth of hormone sensitive breast cancers, avoidance or moderation of soy intake is generally suggested. Talk to your health care professional to find out whether soy is right for your diet.
Myth: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.
Fact: Hormones can affect your likelihood of getting breast cancer, and birth control pills alter the hormones in a woman's body. Studies on the types of estrogen and other hormones used in birth control and their effect on breast cancer have been inconclusive. Epidemiologic studies have generally not demonstrated an association between oral contraception use and the risk of breast cancer later in life. Talk to your health care professional to choose a contraceptive that is right for you.
Myth: All I need to do is my monthly breast self-exam and I will be fine.
Fact: While it is good to examine your breasts monthly and feel for lumps and changes, mammograms are an important step in catching breast cancer early. Women age 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram. Women with a high risk of developing breast cancer can benefit from other screening modalities like breast MRI and ultrasound. Talk to your health care provider to determine if you are at high risk of developing breast cancer.