Currently, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in Canadian women. It is the second leading cause of death in women due to cancer, following behind lung cancer. Although breast cancer is predominantly found in women, it can occur in men. Current statistics quote that a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is one in nine.

Unfortunately, age and sex are two major risk factors for the development of breast cancer and cannot be modified unlike factors such as diet and exercise. With increases in age, a woman’s risk of breast cancer dramatically increases, making age the most considerable risk factor for women. As previously mentioned, being of the female sex is a risk factor as over 99% of breast cancer is found in women. There are many other factors that are less significant but that have been shown to increase a woman’s risk. These include things such as family history of breast cancer (especially if diagnosed prior to menopause in a mother, sister or daughter), having a previous biopsy showing abnormal cells, never being pregnant or first pregnancy being after the age of 30, late onset of menopause and/or menstruation beginning at an early age.

Breast cancer varies from one case to the next and no two people will face the same experience. As a result, the treatment of breast cancer is very individual and will depend on the characteristics of the specific cancer. Treatment options include surgery, including lumpectomy (removal of the cancerous lump) and mastectomy (removal of the entire breast), radiation therapy which uses radiation aimed to destroy cancerous tissue and chemotherapy which consists of medications used to inhibit/slow the growth of the cancer. Often combinations of these treatment options may be used in addition to hormone therapy depending on whether the tumor is sensitive to hormones. Breast cancer in men is treated in the same manner as for women.

The most important factors in the early diagnosis and ultimately a better prognosis are screening by monthly breast self-exams starting at the age of 20, yearly physical exams and mammograms every two years beginning at the age of 50.

Speak to your Rxellence pharmacist if you have any questions regarding breast cancer.