Breast Cancer – Basic Background

The second most common cancer in the United States is breast cancer with 249,000 diagnoses projected for 2016.[1] Of these patients, there will be an estimated 45,000 deaths.[2] Although breast cancer can appear in both sexes, it is 100 times more likely to occur in women as opposed to men.[3] Risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors such as obesity and frequent alcohol use.[4] In total, breast cancer is the most expensive cancer to treat in the United States with an expected price tag of $20.5 billion by 2020.[5] Individually, an insured breast cancer patient will have to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 out of pocket for their care.[6] Currently, the most popular way to screen for breast cancer is mammography, which involves taking an x-ray of the breast.[7] Unfortunately, mammograms can miss up to 20% of any cancerous masses present at the time of imaging.[8] Furthermore, the number of false-negatives increases with the presence of high breast density- a higher amount of connective tissue than fatty tissue.[9] Because connective tissue and tumors appear similarly to the radiologist on a mammogram, tumors can be difficult to detect amongst dense tissue.[10]In addition, the amount of fatty tissue usually increases with age, so older women are less likely to experience these false-negatives as opposed to younger women;[11] however, 43% of women between the ages of 40 to 74 are classified as having dense breasts, as determined by their radiologists.[12]

  1. NIH. (2016, October 12). Breast Cancer Treatment. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ryan, S. (2016, November 16). The Costs of Breast Cancer in the U.S. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from http://costsofcare.org/the-costs-of-breast-cancer-in-the-u-s/

6.NIH. (2016, October 16). Cost of Breast Cancer Chemo Varies Widely in U.S. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161396.html

  1. NIH. (2014, March 25). Mammograms. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/mammograms-fact-sheet

8.Ibid.

  1. Ibid.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Adding 3-D Mammography or Ultrasound to Regular Screening Finds More Cancers in Dense Breasts. (2016, March 18). Retrieved January 01, 2017, from http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/add-3d-mammo-or-ultrasound-to-dense-breast-screening

Author 1: Tessa Miller

Author 2: Rudy Lin, MD