Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Reducing the Risk

More than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the United States – that includes patients being treated and who have completed treatment.

Every October, we take care to draw attention to breast cancer prevention, treatment, and survival. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 1 in 8 chance for a woman living in the United States to develop breast cancer – conversely, 7 out of 8 women will never face a breast cancer diagnosis. But for the 1 (and the 7), awareness of risks makes a life-changing difference.

Breast cancer risk increases with age, with risks increasing further with incidence of radiation exposure, family history of breast cancer, and obesity.

What do we now know about breast cancer that we didn’t know a few years ago?

  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2022, 4.5 percent of all new cancers diagnosed in the United States will occur among patients ages 15-39. Breast cancer accounts for 15 percent of these cases and 13 percent of cancer deaths among this age group. Current research on this group also shows a 5-year survival rate of 85.5 percent.
  • There were 264,121 new female breast cancer cases in the United States in 2019.
  • Recent studies indicate that compared to White women, Black women in the United States face a 41 percent higher risk of death associated with breast cancer— a trend that persists in spite of decreasing risk gaps for other cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. While a small fraction of risk factors can be genetic, research shows that lack of access to adequate health insurance leads to delays in treatment, declined treatment, and diagnosis at a more advanced stage of disease.
  • Technological advancements now allow for a more individualized screening process and potential decrease in overdiagnosis (false positives and/or diagnosis of tumors that are not life-threatening).

How does cancer begin and spread in breast tissue?

When cells in the breast grow abnormally, these cells can develop into cancer in one or more areas of the breast – lobules, ducts, and connective tissue (fibrous and fatty tissue). If undetected and untreated, breast cancer can spread through blood vessels and lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer? What am I looking for during a breast self-examination? reports these red-flag symptoms to look for during a breast self-exam (BSE).

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue.
  • Change in the size, shape, or appearance of a breast.
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling.
  • A newly inverted nipple.
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin.
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.

It is important to note that some breast cancers can be asymptomatic and detectable only through regular preventive screening. Report any and all changes to your doctor immediately and follow up with screening recommendations.

What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence the risk of breast cancer. Some risks are incidental, such as genetics and aging process. What we know now, indicates lowered risks among people who take care of their health in specific ways, according to the CDC:

Where do I start?

If you think you are at risk of cancer, are living with cancer, are a cancer survivor, or want help getting on the right prevention track, call your Customer Experience Advocate team to see if you qualify for personalized care services. Our Customer Experience Advocates will help you find out if you qualify for this no-cost personalized service and connect you with the care you need.

Check your Healthcare Highways Health Plan ID card for your Customer Experience Advocate team's phone number, or reach out onlineWe'll take it from there!"