Breast Cancer: Everything You Need to Know


Thanks to fundraising, screening and greater awareness, breast cancer death rates have fallen dramatically over the past three or four decades. Steve Debenport/Getty Images

In 1991, runners participating in the New York City Race for the Cure, sponsored by the Komen Foundation, were handed pink ribbons. The next year, Estée Lauder offered the pink ribbons to Self Magazine readers in conjunction with the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. Since these events in the early 1990s, the pink ribbon has become a ubiquitous symbol of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States, after skin cancer. In 2015, 242,476 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 41,523 women lost their lives to the disease [source: CDC]. Despite these frightening statistics, there's evidence that those pink ribbons are doing their job in raising awareness of the condition and spurring donations that are used to research new treatments.

More women are seeing their doctors and undergoing breast cancer screenings, which means that problems can be detected before the cancer spreads. The CDC even offers free or discounted mammograms to underserved women. Thanks to early detection and improved treatments, the survival rate for breast cancer has improved vastly. Mortality rates from breast cancer has dropped an astonishing 39 percent from 1989 to 2015 [source: McGinley].

So who's at risk for breast cancer? And what does someone do once they receive their diagnosis? We'll consider these questions, as well as everything else you want to know about breast cancer, in this article.

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