This Issue

Breast Cancer

Former NFL
star raises awareness of breast cancer
in men

Myths about mammograms

Q & A

A closer look

The female breast contains lobes, which are made up of smaller sacs called lobules, in which milk is produced. Thin tubes called ducts carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple when a woman is breastfeeding. The breast also contains vessels that carry clear fluid, or lymph, to small, round organs called lymph nodes.

Most breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules. Inflammatory breast cancer infiltrates the lymph vessels, causing noticeable changes to the breast.

When breast cancer spreads, it travels through the lymph nodes to other organs — usually the bones, liver, lungs and brain.


Click here for more information

A closer look

Risk factors

Race matters

Breast cancer screening 101

Mammography van

Initiative to eliminate cancer disparities


Risk factors

A risk factor is a characteristic that increases a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Having one or more risk factors is not a guarantee that you will get the disease. In fact, many women with multiple risk factors never get breast cancer. However, having no identifiable risk factor other than gender or age does not make a women immune to breast cancer.

Some of the major risk factors are:

• Older age

• Certain genetic mutations

• A first-degree relative with breast cancer

• A personal history of
breast cancer

• Race and ethnicity
• Dense breast tissue

• Previous chest radiation

• Hormone replacement therapy

• Obesity, particularly postmenopausal

• Excessive alcohol consumption
Race Matters

Although the incidence of breast cancer is lower in black women than in white women, between 2004 and 2008, the death rate in blacks exceeded that of all ethnicities.

The age-adjusted rates are per 100,000 women

Source: National Cancer Institute, SEER Research Data, November, 2011

Celebrating 10 years of
serving the women of Boston


The Dana-Farber Mammography Van comes to your neighborhood.

April 10
Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center
632 Blue Hill Ave., Dorchester

April 11
The Dimock Center
55 Dimock St., Roxbury

April 12
South End Community
Health Center
1601 Washington St.,
South End
April 19
Geiger Gibson Community Health Center
250 Mount Vernon St., Dorchester

April 24
Bowdoin Street Health Center
230 Bowdoin St., Dorchester

April 26
Mattapan Community
Health Center
1425 Blue Hill Ave., Mattapan

DANA-FARBER/HARVARD
CANCER CENTER

Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities

Boston Public Library Cancer Awareness Display -
April 1- 30


Lower Mills Branch
27 Richmond Street, Dorchester

Charlestown Branch
179 Main Street, Charlestown

Grove Hall Branch
41 Geneva Avenue, Dorchester

West End Branch
151 Cambridge Street, Boston

Alternative and Complementary Health and Wellness Fair
April 11, 11 a.m. — 2 p.m.

University of Massachusetts Boston
Campus Center,
1st Floor Terrace

Nutrition

Cook Healthy with
Chef JD Walker
April 14, 12 — 2 p.m.

Twelfth Baptist Church
150-160 Warren Street, Roxbury

Ethnic Cooking with
Tara Mardigan, R.D.
April 25, 12 — 1 p.m.

Hope Lodge
161 S Huntington Avenue, Jamaica Plain

Boston Organics -
Differences between organic vs conventional produce
Amy Levine
April 27, 12 — 1 p.m.

The Historic Charles Street
AME Church
551 Warren Street, Roxbury

 

Information on Clinical Trials

Mark Kennedy
May 2, 12-1 p.m.

Roxbury Comprehensive Health Center
435 Warren Street, Roxbury

Seniors on the Move
May 21, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m.

Roxbury YMCA
285 Martin Luther King Boulevard, Roxbury

All Programs are open to the public.
For any additional information,
please contact Athene Wilson Glover at 617-632-4860.

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Breast cancer screening 101

Cancer screening is recommended for women without breast symptoms. Screening can often detect tumors before they spread, which increases the probability of successful treatment. The Affordable Care Act mandates mammograms at no cost.

  • Have clinical breast exams — exams by a health professional — at least once every three years starting in your 20s and 30s.

  • Become familiar with how your breasts normally feel so you can detect changes.

  • Initiate yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams at the age of 40.

  • Get a yearly MRI as well as mammogram if you are at very high risk for breast cancer.

  • Establish a screening schedule with your doctor that accommodates your personal risk. Some people may start screening before the age of 40.

Source: American Cancer Society

Questions & Answers

 


Wendy Y. Chen, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical Oncologist
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
1. Is a lump in the breast always an indicator of cancer?

A breast lump in a woman is not always a sign of breast cancer. For example, benign cysts can come and go according to the menstrual cycles and these do not turn into cancer. However, any woman who has a breast lump that does not go away after a few days should contact her health care provider to evaluate it. In addition, men who notice a breast mass should contact their doctor as well.

2. Should women do regular breast self-examinations?

Currently, the professional guidelines including those from the American Cancer Society do not recommend that women do routine breast self-examinations, since two large randomized trials did not show a benefit. However, if a women notices a mass in her breast that does not go away, she should contact her health care provider for evaluation.

3. If a person has a mutation in a BRCA gene does that mean that he or she will get breast cancer?

The BRCA gene is not associated with 100 percent chance of getting breast cancer. Depending upon whether the mutation is in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, the lifetime risk of breast cancer for a woman ranges from 40-60 percent, according to different studies. The risk of male breast cancer is also elevated with both BRCA mutations, although the risk is higher with BRCA2 mutations. The lifetime risk of breast cancer for a male BRCA mutation carrier ranges from 1-6 percent.

4. Why is obesity correlated to the incidence of breast cancer?

Although there is a clear link between obesity and increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, the mechanism is not definitely known. One possible cause would be due to estrogen, since estrogen is mainly produced by the fat tissue in postmenopausal woman, and heavier postmenopausal women are known to have higher estrogen levels then thinner postmenopausal women. However, other mechanisms besides estrogen are probably involved as well.

5. What is the link between alcohol and breast cancer?

Regular alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, low levels of consumption — three or fewer servings per week — have not been shown to be strongly related to breast cancer risk. There does not appear to be a difference by alcohol type (wine, beer or liquor) when it comes to breast cancer risk. In addition, it is long-term use that is associated with greater risk rather than short-term risk.

6. Does a father’s family history of breast cancer affect a person’s risk of breast cancer?

Yes, a father’s family history of breast cancer does affect a person’s risk of breast cancer since the BRCA1 and 2 genes can be passed to a woman or a man through either the mother or father.

7. Does breast size increase the likelihood of getting breast cancer?

Although a few studies have suggested that increased breast size may be associated with increased breast cancer risk, it is difficult to disentangle this from the effects of obesity. Heavier weight is associated with larger breast size.

A conversation with Wendy Chen