Risk Assessments

one in every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Despite the advances made in treating breast cancer, the causal mechanisms underlying this disease have yet to be fully elucidated; 85% of breast cancer cases occur sporadically without any known genetic mutation. Too little is known about the pathogenesis of breast cancer for primary prevention to be feasible in the near- to mid-term. Secondary prevention through screening offers an alternative that has been widely adopted. For decades, breast self-examination has been touted as a technique for the early identification of breast cancer. However, it has been recently suggested that this technique is a waste of time and resources for both doctors and patients. Mammography finds breast cancer earlier than breast self-examination, and will reduce the risk of death from breast cancer by approximately 30% in women over 50 years old. Mammography is limited in that cancer, like breast tissue, appears white on the x-ray; therefore lesions may be difficult to detect in women with very dense breasts, and a tumor may not cast a significant shadow until it is quite large. Some cancers are so aggressive that they can spread quickly, before routine screening can detect them.

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