As Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is a good time to readdress some facts and dispel some myths.

  1. 1 in 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  2. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. On average, a woman is given a breast cancer diagnosis every two minutes.
  3. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women and the leading cause of premature mortality among women in the US. Each year over 200,000 cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed, and more than 40,000 women die.
  4. There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors alive in the US today.
  5. Breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed in Caucasian women, followed by African American, Hispanic and Asian women; however breast cancer at a young age (i.e. < 40 years old) is most frequently diagnosed in African American women.
  6. Only 5-10% of breast cancers are genetic, i.e. due to inherited genetic mutations, and less than 15% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member with breast cancer.
  7. The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (getting older).

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

The American Cancer Society has established the following breast cancer screening guidelines:

  • Early breast cancer detection reduces the risk of death from the disease.
  • Women with average risk of breast cancer should undergo regular screening mammography starting at age 45, but given the option to begin screening at age 40. (American Congress of OB/GYN recommends annual mammogram for women starting at age 40.)
  • Women 45 – 54 should have a screening mammogram annually.
  • Women > 54 should have biennial screening.
  • Screening mammograms should continue as long as a woman remains in good health and her overall life expectancy is at least 10 years.

Breast Cancer Screening & Fertility Treatment

Annual mammograms are essential for women pursuing fertility treatment. As women postpone their childbearing years, the frequency of breast cancer diagnosis during pregnancy rises. Prior to achieving pregnancy, women 40 and older benefit from having breast cancer screening – even if there is not a strong family history – to minimize the risk of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis while pregnant.

In addition, breast cancer can be sensitive to hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This is another reason why, prior to beginning any fertility/hormonal treatments in which estrogen and progesterone may be administered or rise naturally, it is important to have the proper screening performed.