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11 Facts You Need To Know About Breast Cancer

by Dr. Brandi Brandon Knight, Ph.D.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the organization that began the celebration of survival and honoring those who have lost their battles to Breast Cancer. In 1989, I lost my mother to breast cancer – she was 37 years old. I have dedicated my life to breast cancer research and education. Here is some information about Breast Cancer that everyone should know.

FACT#1: Cancer is defined as uncontrolled, unregulated cell growth. This means that your normal body cells have the potential to turn into cancerous cells. Cancer can be a result of genetic mutations, environmental influences (ie.UV rays), racial backgrounds, lack of exercise and poor eating habits, smoking – just to name a few.

FACT#2: Breast Cancer is the second most common cancer to American women – behind skin cancer. Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer whereas African-American women are more likely to die due to the disease.

FACT#3: Breast tissue extends from the clavicle (the collarbone) to the 2nd rib. It covers the pectoralis major muscle (the pecs) in both men and women. Due to the fact that men do have a small amount of breast tissue, men are not exempt from developing breast cancer. Men account for 2% of the diagnosed breast cancer cases each year. So men, be responsible for your breast health, too!

FACT#4: Increased awareness, education, and improved medical detection and treatment options have attributed to the decrease in the number of deaths due to breast cancer. It is estimated that around 40,000 women will lose their lives due to breast cancer in 2010. Thankfully, this number of deaths has declined by 2% each year from 1998-2007.

FACT#5: Early detection is the best protection. The earlier that someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, the better their chances of survival. Women 40 and over are encouraged to receive a yearly mammogram – which can detect very small tumors that you may not be able to feel during a routine breast examination.

FACT#6: Self-Breast Examinations (SBE) is extremely important for early detection of Breast Cancer. Starting in their 20s, women are advised to perform an SBE correctly at the same time each month. You know your breasts the best, so you will be able to know if changes occur.

FACT#7: Identification of the “Breast Cancer genes” called BRCA1 and BRCA2, was an incredible advancement to cancer research. If someone tests positive for either gene, they are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer AND/OR ovarian cancer. Genetic testing is necessary to see if you carry the gene.

FACT#8: The relative risk for someone positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2 to develop breast and/or ovarian Cancer jumps up to 50%.

FACT#9: Up to 90% of breast cancer cases that are diagnosed are sporadic – there was no prior family history of breast cancer. That leaves 10% of diagnosed cases to be hereditary – there was a prior family history. This means it’s not always your family’s fault for your health.

FACT#10: In 2007, the USPS reported that sales of the Breast Cancer Awareness stamp have raised $59.5 million to fund breast cancer research. Thank you for snail mail.

FACT#11: Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects African-American women under the age of 40. It is very difficult to treat and spreads quickly. Therefore, it is imperative that younger women keep up with their SBEs and yearly doctor’s visits.

Contributor Bio:
Dr. Brandi Brandon Knight received her postdoctoral training at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She was a part of the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) postdoctoral training program which provides research training in addition to formal teaching experience. Dr. Knight taught Cellular Biology as well as Biomolecules in the Biology Department at Spelman College. Along with her research and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Knight serves on numerous committees including the FIRST Executive Committee and the international Associate Member Council (AMC) for American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Dr. Knight graduated with a B.S. degree in Biology from Spelman College in 2001. She went on to receive her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Morehouse School of Medicine in 2007. Recently, Dr. Knight has returned to Morehouse School of Medicine as a faculty member in the Department of Medical Education.

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