Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer: An Overview Image

Breast cancer is a type of malignant tumor that grows in breast tissue and can spread to other tissues of the body. It can occur in men and women, though women are at much higher risk than men.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (2010), less than 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men, and the disease is the second most common cancer in women, behind skin cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society (2009) reports that approximately 25 percent of all female cancer patients have breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Statistics: Who’s At Risk?

According to the American Cancer Society (2009), the incidence of breast cancer in women increases with age, rising sharply after the age of 40. Here are some other breast cancer statistics:

  • Approximately 50 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are given to women ages 61 and over.
  • Only 1.4 out of 100,000 women between the ages of 20 and 24 will develop breast cancer, while 442 out of 100,000 women between the ages of 75 and 79 will.
  • White and African-American women have higher rates of breast cancer than women from all other ethnicities.

Breast Cancer Research: Looking for the Breast Cancer Gene

A vast amount of resources has been dedicated to researching breast cancer in recent decades, resulting in several discoveries. Scientists have uncovered the main risk factors, including hormonal factors and the now well-known breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The stages of the disease have been well characterized, along with the most common symptoms that occur in each. Doctors have refined diagnostic techniques and revealed preventative steps that at-risk women can take.

Major breakthroughs have occurred in the treatment of breast cancer. Depending on its stage, breast cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Doctors often utilize a combination of two or all three of these options in a comprehensive treatment plan.

Breast Cancer Prognosis

All of this research has led to a decrease in death rates among women with breast cancer, with the rate among white women having decreased the most. Breast cancer statistics show that from 1990 to 2006, death rates among all women under 50 decreased by 3.2 percent per year; and among women over 50, death rates decreased by 2 percent per year (American Cancer Society, 2009).

According to the most recent breast cancer statistics released by the American Cancer Society (2009), women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 89 percent chance of surviving five years after diagnosis, an 82 percent chance of surviving 10 years after diagnosis and a 75 percent chance of surviving 15 years after diagnosis.


American Cancer Society. (2009). Breast cancer facts and figures 2009-2010. Retrieved on October 11, 2010 from

American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2010). Breast cancer – Male. Retrieved October 11, 2010 from Types/Breast Cancer – Male