WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer deaths have declined over time, but it remains the second most common cancer in U.S. women after skin cancer, according to the CDC.
One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Dr. Rachel Brem is an expert in the field of breast imaging and intervention. She is the Director of Breast Imaging and Intervention as well as a Professor of Radiology at The George Washington University Medical Center.
Brem said it’s important to note that three-quarters of women who have breast cancer have no other risk factor, except being a woman.
“Really, the number-one risk factor is being a woman. But some of the other ways you might know if you’re at increased risk is if you have a family history of breast cancer, particularly if you have multiple members of your family who have breast cancer, either in both breasts or early,” she said.
Brem said some families just don’t have a lot of women in their family.
“And if that’s the case, then you might have men in your family with prostate cancer that can be associated. So those are the kinds of things we look for with familial breast cancer, genetic breast cancer. And it’s important to note that there have already been 70 genes that have been associated with the substantially increased risk of breast cancer. And you can get those genes from either your mother or your father, equally,” she commented.
In the White House, First Lady Jill Biden and her husband, President Joe Biden, are driving efforts to prevent more than 4 million cancer deaths by 2047 and improve the experience for people who are touched by cancer, including patients, their families and their caregivers.
“Every woman has to get her mammogram starting at the age of 40 every year until her life expectancy is five years or less — unless she has a family member with breast cancer, then they should start 5 to 10 years earlier than the age of the relative. And if you have dense breasts, mammography alone is not enough. You must get an ultrasound or additional imaging. And if you do have this gene or multiple family members with breast cancer, then an MRI every year is appropriate as well,” Brem said.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, thanks to early detection and advanced treatment, the five-year survival rate for patients is 99%.
“You know, we can’t prevent breast cancer. There’s nothing we can do that will assure that we have we won’t develop breast cancer, but you can reduce your risk. First of all, you can live a healthy lifestyle, proper weight exercise, proper diet, limit alcohol, limit processed food,” Brem said. “… You can certainly live in areas of the country that have a lower risk of breast cancer, but we can’t prevent breast cancer, and we also are born with intrinsic risks of breast cancer based on our family history and our genetics, which of course, we can’t change as well.”
Dr. Brem and Christine Teal, associate professor of surgery and director of the Breast Care Center at the GW MFA, collaborated on a book about the breast cancer treatment experience, “No Longer Radical: Understanding Mastectomies and Choosing the Breast Cancer Care that’s Right for You.”