Cancer Prevention Works: Breast Cancer Awareness

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Breast Cancer Awareness: Improve Your Health and Lower Your Risk

What is influenced by a combination of risk factors and is the second most common cancer in women in the United States? The answer is breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and this observance highlights three important actions: (1) understanding breast cancer risk factors, (2) knowing what to do to lower your risk, and (3) getting regular screening tests. All women are at risk for breast cancer and that risk increases with age. However, studies show that the chances of getting breast cancer is due to a combination of factors, not just one factor. Some factors that put you at a higher risk for breast cancer regardless of age, include a strong family history of breast cancer and inherited changes to breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Other factors such as dense breast tissue, previous noncancerous breast diseases, and your reproductive history can also put you at risk. Even though these are risk factors that you cannot change, you can take actions such as keeping a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity to help lower your breast cancer risk. Knowing your individual risk can help you decide when breast cancer screening is right for you. While screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. During this month and beyond, focus on how you can improve your health. Check out our resources on breast cancer, screening, and treatment.

  • The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) helps low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women get access to breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services.
  • CDC's Bring Your Brave campaign provides information about breast cancer to women younger than 45 using real stories of prevention, risk, family history, and survivorship.
  • My Motivated Moment, a new podcast series from Bring Your Brave features six personal experiences with breast cancer and encouraging stories about taking charge of your health.
  • New videos show CDC experts answering questions about breast cancer.

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The Flu Shot: A Winner for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Seasonal influenza (flu) is the opponent. If you have cancer now or are a cancer survivor, the best way to win against this opponent is to get the flu shot. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can weaken the immune system and place patients and survivors at a higher risk for complications from the flu. The flu virus can spread up to six feet away. If you have family members that are cancer patients or survivors, or if you are a caregiver, you should get the flu shot to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Other steps to reduce the risk of spreading the flu includes washing hands frequently, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated, and keeping hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth after touching contaminated surfaces. Overall, CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu shot for the upcoming season. Learn more about flu risk and cancer.

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CDC Study Shows Breast Cancer Differences in Young Women

A recent CDC study highlights the differences in breast cancer incidence among young women. Although breast cancer is not common among younger women, rates have remained stable in recent years. Breast cancers in young women are more likely to be found at later stages and with more aggressive, larger tumors. Based on data from CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program, the study looked at breast cancer rates and trends by stage, grade, and tumor subtype, as well as age and race/ethnicity among women aged 20-49 years. From 2004-2013, the majority of invasive breast cancer cases (77.3%) occurred among women aged 40-49 years. Among women younger than 45 years old, black women had the highest breast cancer incidence. For women aged 45-49 years, white women had higher breast cancer incidence than black women. Across all age groups, incidence rates for triple-negative breast cancer were higher in black women than other races/ethnicities. These differences show that breast cancers in young women are highly diverse and in need of further research into personal and cultural factors. Take a look at our resource for triple-negative breast cancer.


Did You Know?

BRCA infographic
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) is caused by a mutation in the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) genes.
  • About 5% to 10% of breast cancers and 10% to 15% of ovarian cancers result from inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.