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This is a video segment with a panel discussion sponsored by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Two distinguished experts participated: Clifford Hudis, MD from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and Walter C. Willett, MD who is a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard. Dr Willett conducted a complex study to determine risk factors of breast cancer. Some risks: fat in the body – especially post-menopausal fat gain, alcohol consumption (take a folic acid supplement to help counteract this), and especially being overweight.
Here’s more information on how breast cancer develops from our companion website, patientresource.net:
As with all cancers, the development of breast cancer starts from just one genetically abnormal cell. This abnormal cell divides and multiplies rapidly to become a mass of cells, or a tumor. As the tumor grows, it develops a blood supply to help sustain its growth. Cells may break off a large tumor and travel through the blood system to nearby lymph nodes (tiny, bean-shaped organs that are part of the immune system); lymph nodes near the breast are located under the arm, in the neck, and just above the collarbone. Tumor cells can also travel to other parts of the body; this spread of cancer is known as metastasis. The most common sites of breast cancer metastasis are the bones, lungs, and liver.
Breast cancer screening with mammography and routine clinical breast examinations are important for detecting breast cancer early, before the tumor invades a large amount of breast tissue or tumor cells travel beyond the breast. The earlier a breast cancer is found, the greater the chance is for treatment to be effective.
Approximately 90-95% of all breast cancers are sporadic, which means that they occur by chance. The remaining 5-10% of breast cancers are caused by inherited abnormalities in genes, known as genetic mutations. The primary breast cancer-related genetic mutations are BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. When breast cancer is diagnosed in a young individual (less than 50 years), or when one or more members of a family have breast cancer or a related hereditary cancer (ovarian, colorectal, or endometrial cancer), other family members may have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, which increases their risk for breast cancer. Genetic counselors can help a woman determine whether genetic testing is appropriate for her or her family members.