Medical Moment: Breast cancer facts

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:41 PM EDT
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More than 43,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die from breast cancer in 2021. Many of these will be hard to treat cancers and cancers that were detected in late stages. However, when breast cancer is found early and has not spread, the five-year survival rate is 99%.

According to a survey, one in three women have delayed their annual mammogram, and 45% say they’re nervous about visiting their doctor since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The mammogram is basically the gold standard and that’s the one that’s been studied the most and has shown to actually decrease deaths from breast cancer,” says Dr. Cynthia Litwer, a radiologist for Cedars-Sinai Imaging.

In fact, research from Canada says that cancers found in between mammograms are 3.5x more deadly than breast cancer found during screenings. The longer you delay the screening, the more opportunity the cancer has to grow.

Another surprising fact: breastfeeding can lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Doctors say it would be ideal to breastfeed for at least six months to a year.

Also, an NYU study found a heart attack can increase your risk for breast cancer recurrence by nearly 60%, and tattoos can complicate breast cancer screenings. Tattoo pigment can gravitate to lymph nodes, and that can register as a false alarm mammogram.

Another important face: breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in pregnant women or women who have recently given birth.

Experts say the best way to protect yourself is to get screened early. It may just save your life.

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