Breast cancer number two killer in women

27 Oct 2009 | Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

As October begins so does the time to raise awareness for breast cancer. Breast cancer is the number two killer for women in the U.S. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die from it each year.

“Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast,” as stated by the National Breast Cancer Foundation Web site. “It is considered a heterogeneous disease, differing by individual, age group and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves.”

For a woman who receives the diagnosis that she has breast cancer, it can be hard to handle, but it doesn’t mean it is the end. By educating herself with the facts, she can find hope and begin to fight.

Although breast cancer greatly affects women, men can be diagnosed with breast cancer as well. It is estimated that approximately 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die from it each year, as stated by the Web site.

Some factors that can affect those who may be diagnosed with breast cancer are:

         -age: half of all women diagnosed are over the age 65.

         -weight: being obese or overweight.

         -diet and lifestyle: lack of physical activity, a diet high in saturated fat and alcoholic intake of more than two drinks per day.

            -menstrual and reproductive history: early menstruation or late menopause, having your first child at an older age or not having given birth, or taking birth control pills for more than 10 years if you are under 35. 

            -family and personal history: a family history of breast cancer, particularly a mother, sister or a personal history of breast cancer of benign breast disease.

            -medical and other factors: dense breast tissue, often identified by a mammogram, past radiation therapy to the breast or chest area, a history of hormone treatments such as estrogen and progesterone.

“A woman 18 years old or older should understand why she should be doing self breast exams and be doing (them) routinely every month,” said Lt. Cmdr. Marcel Macgilvray, assistant department head for radiology with Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “She will learn her own body and know it better than anyone else.”

There are a few common signs and symptoms the Web site states that women should pay attention to when conducting their self exam: change in how the breast or nipple feels, such as nipple tenderness, a lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area; change in how the breast or nipple looks such as a change in the size or shape of the breast or a nipple that is turned slightly inward. Also the skin of the breast, areola or nipple may appear scaly, red, swollen or may have ridges or pitting that resembles the skin of an orange and nipple discharge.

Early detection is the key to beating the disease.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends an early breast cancer detection plan beginning at the age of 20 by performing self breast exams and looking for any sings of changes. From the age 20 through 39, women should schedule a clinical exam every three years. Ages 40 through 49, women should have a mammogram every one to two years depending on the previous findings. For ages 50 and older it is recommended women receive a mammogram every year.

“This is a big public health issue,” said Macgilvray. “There is no reason not to be screened. We want to detect more cancer. We can’t prevent it, but if we catch it early we can give the proper treatment and prevent mortality.”

To help women detect breast cancer early, during the week of Oct. 19 through 22 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Naval Hospital’s radiology clinic is offering mammogram screenings to women 40 years and older, who need an initial mammogram, women who are not current with their annual mammogram and women who are TriCare beneficiaries.

“We want to promote awareness in women with these mammogram screenings we are offering,” said Macgilvray. “We want to make it easy for women to come in. Breast cancer can be cured if it’s caught at an early stage and that’s the reason for the screenings.”

The service is free and on a first come, first served, walk-in basis. Women who have a pre-existing condition or breast implants require a diagnostic mammogram. For more information on breast cancer, visit the Web site at To set up an appointment for a screening or diagnostic mammogram, call 450-4357.