The Startling Prevalence Of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, accounting for one out of every three cancer cases. It's the third deadliest cancer in the United States. Approximately 180,000 women across the country receive this troubling diagnosis each year, and nearly 45,000 die from it annually.

Evaluating Your Risk

Because the rates of breast cancer are so high — alarmingly, one out of every seven or eight women will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime — all women should be on alert for signs of breast cancer, especially those with risk factors such as:

  • Early onset of menarche (menstruation)
  • Late onset of menopause
  • Nulliparity (never had children)
  • First full-term pregnancy after age 30
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Personal history of benign proliferative breast disease
  • Obesity

Family history is significant when it comes to evaluating your risk. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all breast cancer cases involve a family history. Half of women with familial breast cancer have a gene mutation that makes them susceptible.

The Importance Of Regular Screening

In its early stages, breast cancer is treatable. Much depends on prompt detection. A delayed diagnosis can deprive you of the opportunity to overcome this life-threatening condition.

Routine screenings are the first line of defense against breast cancer. Since introducing screening programs, our health care system has become much more effective at early detection. Fewer women have died from breast cancer as a result of regular screenings such as:

  • Breast self-examination
  • Breast examination by medical provider
  • Mammography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

However, screenings alone aren't enough. Doctors also have a responsibility to take patients' complaints seriously. Further testing is especially critical for women experiencing symptoms such as:

  • A lump or mass in the breast tissue
  • A lump in the armpit
  • Thickening of the breast tissue
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Pain in the breast
  • Nipple pain
  • Abnormal nipple discharge
  • Nipple retraction
  • Dimpling or swelling in the breast

If you have these symptoms, your doctor should conduct a full diagnostic work-up, which is much more intensive than a routine screening.

How often should women get screened? According to current recommendations:

  • Women with no family history of breast cancer should get a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-40, followed by regular mammograms each year (or, at minimum, every other year).

  • Women with a family history should begin screenings at a much earlier age. They should also undergo genetic counseling and get annual MRI scans, which are more effective than mammograms.

Wondering If Your Doctor Was Negligent In Failing To Detect Or Screen For Breast Cancer?

Do you have unanswered questions about whether your breast cancer (or that of a loved one) was treatable? Did your doctor fail to take your symptoms seriously? Were you deprived of the right screenings or treatment?

At Barry D. Lang, M.D. & Associates, we can help you get answers. Our attorneys work with doctors and nurses on staff to conduct a detailed case evaluation. If your doctor or care provider was negligent, you can rely on us to help you assert your rights.

Based in the Boston area, we handle medical negligence cases across Massachusetts. Call 800-LAWYERS to take advantage of a free initial consultation.