Advances in breast cancer prevention, research and treatment continue to dominate the headlines, which is good news as one in eight American women will have breast cancer in her lifetime. Better yet, should you be diagnosed, individualized treatment has become more and more of the norm. “The biggest breast cancer theme right now is that surveillance, early detection and treatment of women with breast cancer isn’t one-size-fits-all,” says Marisa C. Weiss, MD, president and founder of breastcancer.org. “As we enter the era of precision medicine, we’re learning more and more about the uniqueness of the cancer a person has been diagnosed with.” The most important things you need to know about the pink ribbon disease nght now:
Sitting too much ups your risk. Researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that women who sit for more than six hours per day have a 10 percent greater risk of getting invasive breast cancer than women who stay seated for less than three hours.
Extra pounds add up. ACS researchers also found that women who put on 60 or more pounds after age 18 doubled their risk of a postmenopausal breast cancer diagnosis.
Cancers have personalities. After a breast cancer diagnosis, oncologists aren’t just focused on how big or small a tumor is or whether it’s traveled to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. “Instead, we’re drilling down on its personality and what turns on the growth of those cells,” Weiss says.
Breast density matters. If your breasts are dense—like nearly half or American women—you may be at a higher risk of breast cancer. And, while dense breasts tend to be more prevalent in premenopausal women and in women taking hormone replacement, many women don’t know about the composition of their breasts. Breast density must be reported to patients in only 24 states. So what should you do if you live in a state without these laws? Talk to your health care provider and see if you need an ultrasound or MRI in addition to your annual mammogram, suggests Nancy M. Cappello, PhD, executive director and founder of Are You Dense, an advocacy organization. “Request a copy of the report the radiologist generates following your mammogram,” she says. “Your mammogram may be totally normal, but there may be nuances to that report that you need to see.”
Mammo start times remain controversial. While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made headlines in 2009 when it recommended regular mammograms starting at age 5O, many health care providers are still suggesting age 40. “With 25 percent of breast cancers occurring before the age of 50—and those cancers tend to be more aggressive—my point of view is for women to get that first mammo at 40.” Weiss says.