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
  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

6.NIH. (2016, October 16). Cost of Breast Cancer Chemo Varies Widely in U.S. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from

  1. NIH. (2014, March 25). Mammograms. Retrieved January 01, 2017, from


  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

Author 1: Tessa Miller

Author 2: Rudy Lin, MD