Breast Cancer: Where are we today?

Breast Cancer remains a very serious and important medical problem in the world. Every year, over 170,000 women and over 2,000 men will be found with breast cancer.
In the 1980s, we started to use mammograms in order to screen women for the possibility of having breast cancer. This has been a revolutionary step and a life saver for thousands of women. As we would expect, with the use of mammograms, we now find many cancers very early in their course, which in the past would have never been found until it was too late and the cancer might have already spread.
The question one would ask is: Since women now use mammograms as a way to find breast cancer early before it spreads, does this mean that we no longer find breast cancer that is advanced by the time we find it? Unfortunately, the answer is no. This is truly unfortunate.
It seems that there is a group of women who have a tendency (which is probably genetic in origin) to developing very aggressive breast cancers and that when they are found with breast cancer, their cancers are already spread. Thankfully, this is a small percentage of the women who develop breast cancer. This group of women, the ones who develop a very aggressive breast cancer from the “get go” is made up of only about 5% – 10% of all women who develop breast cancer. Research is currently ongoing to see if we can find other ways to know who are these women who develop aggressive breast cancers from the start and how to find them earlier than what is possible with a mammogram. To this end, the use of things such as the BRCA cancer genes and blood tests are being explored as a possible means of finding these women who have the tendency to develop aggressive breast cancers and to try to catch them as early as possible.
The good news is that we are making progress. The findings of new and promising ways to try to find out who are the women at risk for this aggressive form of breast cancer continue to come frequently. As we learn of them, we here at Cancer In Plain English will post them here for you in easy to understand language. Our desire is to make complicated cancer information very easy to understand so that everyone can know as much as possible. All of these concepts are as well available on the breast cancer audio CD which is available on the internet web site.

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Perpetual Inventory