Breast Cancer

Incidence and Mortality

 One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.  While it is the leading cause of cancer death among young women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among all women—second only to lung cancer.  In the United States, nearly 240,000 women will be annually diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 women will die from this disease.  On a global level, more than 1.1 million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 410,000 will die from the disease this year alone.  To understand its impact globally—a case of breast cancer is diagnosed every 29 seconds, while a woman dies from this disease every 75 seconds worldwide.  In the United States, the impact only lessens slightly—with one woman being diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, whereas one woman will die of this devastating disease every 13 minutes.  Despite its far-reaching and devastating impact, there is tremendous hope in the survival rate statistics. (Source:  Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  The State of Breast Cancer, 2007)        

Risk Factors

Being a woman and getting older are the most important risk factors for breast cancer.  The causes of breast cancer are unknown.  Only about five to ten percent of breast cancers are due to heredity.  The majority of women with breast cancer have no known significant family history or other known risk factors.  Women with a BRCA mutation have an estimated lifetime risk of breast cancer of up to 85%.

It is important to note that breast cancer can present as many diseases.  It is a complicated clinical puzzle where there is no one specific answer.  Although diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices show some promise to help reduce incidence rates, there is no way to prevent breast cancer.  Given the complex nature of breast cancer, it is important to work together with a team like GOA that can help you sort through the maze of preventive/prophylactic choices, treatment options, and develop an individualized care plan that meets your personal needs.  And for those who carry one of the identified breast cancer genes, the highly skilled and experienced GOA team can help you to understand the absolute risk and impact that your gene predisposition might have on other female cancers rather than just relative risk.

The team at GOA is equipped and committed to reaching all who face breast cancer.  We work collaboratively and in an interdisciplinary manner with other breast specialists such as breast radiologists, pathologists, surgical oncologists and supportive allied health professionals. 

No one is left behind, because we have culturally sensitive physicians and other breast health professionals on staff.  We also participate in programs that help eliminate barriers to access such as healthcare beliefs, cultural barriers, poverty, misperceptions, lack of awareness, false sense of security, and geography. 


 There are currently about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive and thriving in the United States.  The relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are:

  • 89% at 5 years after diagnosis
  • 82% after 10 years of diagnosis
  • 75% after 15 years of diagnosis
  • The five-year survival rate for regional disease is 84% and 27% for distant-stage disease
  • Considering all races, the 5-year relative survival rates are as follows:

                                –98% for localized disease

                        –84% for regional disease

                        –23% for distant-stage disease    

More Facts about Breast Cancer

If you are interested in learning more about the latest trends over time, impact by age/race/gender, stages, signs and symptoms of breast cancer, etc. then please click on the link below for the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2009-2010:

Advances in Testing:  Choosing the Best Treatment

1. Sentinel lymph node biopsy      
To check for the possible spread of breast cancer, surgeons used to remove many of the lymph nodes under the arm near the affected breast.  This sometimes led to a swelling of the arm called lymphedema, or numbness and pain in the arm.  Now, surgeons can often remove one to three key nodes—known as the sentinel lymph nodes—to check for the spread of cancer.

2. HER2/neu                                                    
Her-2/neu is a protein that appears on the outside of some breast cancer cells and may help aggressive tumors grow.  About one in four women with breast cancer have Her-2/neu positive  breast cancer. These women could benefit from targeted treatments such as Herceptin.

3. Hormone receptor status                        
Some breast cancers are “fed” by certain hormones.  Tests that determine if tumor cells have receptors for these hormones help to guide treatment. Women who test positive for hormone receptors may be treated with drugs that block the receptors or stop the hormones from being made. 

Advances in Treatment

1. Breast-Conserving Surgery
Studies show that for some women, treatment with a lumpectomy, which removes only the tumor, and radiation has similar outcomes to a mastectomy (removing the entire breast).

2. Targeted Therapies
Targeted therapies are designed to specifically attack cancer cells while leaving most normal cells alone.

3. Preventive Surgery
Surgically removing the breasts before cancer is detected (prophylactic bilateral mastectomy) has been found to greatly reduce the risk of developing the disease for high-risk women, particularly those who have tested positive for the BRCA genes.  This is an option for women who are at higher risk.   

4. Preventive Chemotherapy
High-risk women may be able to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by taking certain medicines such as tamoxifen or raloxifene—an approach known as chemoprevention.

Source:  Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The State of Breast Cancer, 2007