Breast cancer: Status report
This year in the United States an estimated 182,000 women will learn they have breast cancer. Two-thirds of the cases of breast cancer occur in older women, but it affects younger women too (and about 900 men a year).
More women are getting breast cancer, but no one yet knows all the reasons why. Some of the increase can be traced to better ways of recognizing cancer and greater efforts to detect cancers in an early stage. Some of it may be the result of changes in the way we live-postponing motherhood, taking replacement hormones and oral contraceptives, eating high-fat foods, or drinking more alcohol.
The encouraging news is that, more and more, breast cancer is being detected early, while the tumor is limited to the breast and very small. Currently, two-thirds of newly diagnosed breast cancers show no signs that the cancer has spread beyond the breast, and a quarter of the cancers are smaller than one-third of an inch.
With prompt and appropriate treatment, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. Moreover, when a cancer is detected while it is still small, a woman may have the option of choosing a treatment that preserves her breast.