Breast Cancer Awareness Month is drawing to a close, but experts say it’s important to remain vigilant about breast cancer all year long.
Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge has compiled essential, and some surprising, facts about breast cancer to keep you alert and in the know:
In the United States, more than 43,000 women and more than 500 men are expected to die from breast cancer in 2021. Many of these cases will be hard-to-treat cancers that were detected in the late stages of the illness.
When breast cancer is found early and has not spread, the five-year survival rate is 99% -- which, alone, highlights how critical it is to detect the cancer early on.
According to a survey from SurvivorNet.com, one in three women have delayed their annual mammogram appointment, and 45% say they’re nervous about visiting their doctor since the start of the 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,” said radiologist Dr. Cynthia Litwer.
Related: Breast cancer survivors tell all: ‘If you feel something and it doesn’t show on the mammogram, keep pointing it out’
Research out of Canada shows that cancers discovered in between mammograms are 3.5 times more deadly than breast cancer found during screenings. The longer the screenings are delayed, the more opportunity the cancer has to grow.
“We also recommend women have a physician breast exam beginning around the age of 25 on an annual basis,” said oncologist Dr. Thomas Samuel.
Another interesting fact: Breastfeeding can reportedly lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Research suggests that it is ideal for women to breastfeed for at least six months to one year.
According to a study from New York University, patients who survived a heart attack may be more likely to die from cancer later on. Study authors say heart attacks cause changes to immune cells that make them less able to attack cancer cells, potentially allowing tumors to grow more quickly.
Something perhaps unexpected: Tattoos can actually complicate breast cancer screenings. Tattoo pigment can migrate to lymph nodes, triggering a false alarm on a mammogram.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in pregnant women or women who have recently given birth.
It’s also true that having a relative with breast cancer may mean you’re at higher risk yourself, which is important information to share with your doctor.
However, about 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the illness -- meaning everyone must be aware of the risk.
More: ‘Losing was not an option’: Survivor Saunteel Jenkins shares breast cancer story